Paul R. Lehman, Recent police videos indicate more than training is needed today.

April 23, 2015 at 12:11 am | Posted in African American, American Racism, Bigotry in America, blacks, Constitutional rights, democracy, discrimination, Disrespect, education, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, freedom of speech, justice, justice system, law enforcement agencies, liberty, life, lower class, minority, police force, Prejudice, race, Race in America, social justice system, socioeconomics, whites | 1 Comment
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To many Americans, especially people of color, the idea that the training received by law enforcement agents and police is inadequate and too limited helps to create its counter-productiveness. Thanks to the recent spate of videos showing the activities of some law agents in action, we can actually observe how that training fails to have a positive impact of the citizens directly involved. Some of the scenes depict, in effect, the abuse and excessive use of force on helpless individuals. We know, and underscore, the fact that the videos do not reflect all law enforcement agents, but what is presented certainly helps us to raise questions about the limits of officer preparedness.

We have seen enough videos to know that office training relative to equipment and emergencies is usually top quality. What we have also witnessed, however, is the need for more than training in some situations, and the introduction of the use of common sense and rational thought. In effect, while the training is important and necessary, it alone is not sufficient to address the needs of today’s population. The philosophy of viewing some people as suspects that deserves little or no respect comes through in many of the videos in the manner in which they are addressed and treated. Education and instruction must begin to represent part of the preparation of law enforcement agents if their efforts are to be productive.

One of the common complaints of some officers who patrol areas inhabited by people of color whose social and economic status is less than middle class is the lack of coöperation by the citizens relative to police business. Why is it that these citizens generally do not help the police? One answer can be found in the area of community relations. Because the majority of the experiences involving law enforcement in these communities are negative, the first reaction of the citizens to the law officers will be guarded. After witnessing the treatment of a citizen by some officers, the last thing other citizens want to do is attract the attention of the officers. Law enforcement officers need to know that people of color as well as other people in the lower social-economic class generally react to them with fear. They know through experience and observation that they are not valued as human being by some officers. So they avoid taking an unnecessary chance of interaction with the officers.

What has happened in the past as well as presently regarding officer interaction involving people of color shows a need for better education and instruction for the officers, primarily, and the citizens, secondarily. Today, the training of the offices might be adequate for the job in general, but not sufficient for the needs of today’s diverse society. Depending on the nature, content, and objective of the current training, the results might produce more of a separation and discrimination mindset that focuses on human differences rather than commonalities and fairness.

Part of the problem with police preparedness has been the lack of education from a historical and cultural perspective relative to the communities being served. The frequently asked question of why people of color at times do not help police doing investigations underscores the problem of a lack of positive community relations. The police might take for granted that just because they represent the law and its authority that people will automatically come to assist them is based on a false premise. The make-up of the communities represents the underpinning of the problem, which is trust.

Often the attitudes of the law enforcers are a turn-off to the citizens because they show a lack of respect for the citizens and their rights. Unfortunately, the recent videos show time after time the abuse, excessive force, and total disregard for the citizens’ efforts to communicate. In many cases, the law enforcer is focused on doing his or her job which might include a disregard of rights of the citizen involved. For example, in the Eric Gardner situation, the officers were focused and intent on forcing Gardner to the ground and subduing him. During this process, they showed little or no concern for his repeated statements of “I can’t breath.”While they were probably following their training in subduing Gardner, they were ignoring the pleas of a human being under distress. The officers simple focused on a selective part of their preparation and conduct– the training, and not the education and reasonableness to examine the law infraction to the punishment being administered.

One aspect of the law enforcement agents’ current practice is the lack of concern that seemly concern for the interpretation of their actions by the public and other observers. The way citizens are treated by officers sends a message to the citizens relative to how some human beings are valued. Too often, as some of the videos indicate, when injuries inflicted on a citizen by officers are apparent, but ignored, the message sent to the public is one of little or no concern for the person being detained. The apparent philosophy is to value only the life and wellbeing of the officer, not the citizen. Of course we know that is not the case in every instance, but the videos show that this philosophy does represent a problem in current law enforcement shortcomings. People will not trust or coöperate with officers they fear and do not respect.

Today, the first order of business for law enforcers’ preparation should be to study American history that addresses the causes of ethnic injustice, not just the effects. Officers need a realistic and pertinent education that helps them to discard the prejudice, biases, and bigotry they brought with them to the job. They need to be taught to recognize social and economic characteristics of a community that will help them in their job to serve and defend all the citizens. So, the job of preparing the law enforcers must come from the top—the administrators. The officers can only reflect what they have inside and what has been made available to the public via videos indicate a lack of understanding and knowledge emanating from the top. The situation today relative to police and community relations requires a focus on the need for better officer preparation and instruction and how they should serve effectively in our ever-growing, diverse society. Our society needs law enforcement agents that are not only well-trained, but also well-educated regarding their responsibilities to the citizens—officers who can think as well as act.

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Paul R. Lehman, America needs to start showing the world what an American looks like

September 17, 2013 at 12:02 am | Posted in African American, blacks, democracy, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, immigration, Prejudice, Race in America, skin color, Slavery | 2 Comments
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What does an American look like? If we were to go back to the 1840s in America, we might find some people who believed that the “real population” of America was of “Anglo-Saxons, Celts, Teutons, Slavs and a few other races. This description would be misleading because the Celts, Teutons, and Slavs were not accepted as “the real population” and were depicted not as racially distinct “but as consanguine ‘whites.’” Many Americans who today consider themselves white were not viewed as such until around the 1920 and after. The reason for all the fuss was that the Anglo-Saxons believed themselves the model of the human race. Some Americas were so consumed with the concept of America being a nation of white people and for white people with the Anglo-Saxons being the supreme white people that they were instrumental in getting laws passed to restrict the immigration of non-white people.
Harry Laughlin was one of the most active individuals in influencing the American eugenics policy. He was especially effective in obtaining compulsory sterilization legislation. He was once described him as “among the most racist and anti-Semitic of early twentieth-century eugenicists.” In 1934, he advised the Special committee on Immigration and Alien Insane “That no immigrant be admitted, whether by quota or otherwise, who is not—First, a member of the white race’; and that, for the purposes of immigration law, ‘a white person be defined as one all of whose ancestors were member of the white or Caucasian race.’” So, regardless of America telling the world that it was a nation open to all people with each citizen’s right guaranteed, we find the hypocrisy and prejudice apparent in who could qualify as a citizen or even who could be admitted to this country based on a created concept of race.
America has always been a country built on ethnic diversity and as early as the middle 1700s an observer of American society, Michel-Guillaume Jean de Crèvecoeur, wrote “What, then, is the American, this new man? He is neither an European nor the descendant of an European; hence that strange mixture of blood, which you will find in no other country.” He continued by underscoring his point concerning American diversity, “I could point out to you a family whose grandfather was an Englishman, whose wife was Dutch, whose son married a French woman, and whose present four sons have now wives of different nations.” He defines an American by stating that “He is an American, who leaving behind him all his ancient prejudices and manners, receives new ones from the new mode of life he has embraces, the government he obeys and the new rank he holds.” We should have no doubt about America being a diverse nation with no one group holding claim to the nation’s identity.
Unfortunately, when the concept of race was created and instituted in society, it was done so by people who identified themselves as Anglo-Saxons. Bringing their old prejudice with them from England, they assumed their group to be superior to all others. Their beliefs were contrary to the creed of their new nation since slavery was also instituted as an acceptable social feature. If hypocrisy was a joke, we would forever be laughing because rather than using diversity as a strength to unify the country, it was used in a contrary way. Instead of society working towards unifying the country, efforts were made to ensure class differences while not admitting to a class structure. The statement about “what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive” seems appropriate to the conundrum in which America finds itself today relative to diversity. Society puts on the mask of unity to hide the face of bigotry and prejudice because it still has not come to grips with the fallacy of multiple biological races.
So, what ignited this discussion on American ethnic hypocrisy? We began with the question of “what does an American look like?” The reason for the question was based on the reactions of some citizens to the selection of Nina Davuluri as Miss America 2014. Miss Davuluri is an Asian American and what should have been received as evidence of a nation growing in acceptance of its creed accepting our diversity as a strength, turned into a display of bigotry and prejudice. To make matters worse, her platform for the contest was called, “Celebrating Diversity Through Cultural Competency.” The runner-up for the title was also Asian American.
As a society, we need to start being more accountable for educating those who have no idea of what American democracy means. Those people who made disparaging remarks concerning the ethnicity of the new Miss America showed their ignorance of American history as well as a prejudice that is based on that ignorance. People who still want to hold on to the idea that America is a white country owned and controlled by white people need to be informed that the concept is false, an illusion. At one time in our history the concept was promoted because the people with money and power as well as the government had the ability to control the concept. Today, we know beyond a doubt the truth of mankind being of one race. We need to spread the word to those who still embrace the illusion.
The judges in the Miss America contest did a number of services for the country in choosing Miss Davuluri as the new Miss America for 2014. First, by choosing an Asian America they showed America and the World that the standard of beauty is no longer that of the European American. For years, no ethnic American was allowed to enter the contest. The second service they rendered was to show America and the world that America is indeed a nation of ethnic diversity and just what Americans look like. The process is slow, but each day brings us closer to the realization of the American creed that speaks to all people being created equal and endowed with certain inalienable rights. Many young American girls who watched the contest can rest easily now knowing that Miss America can and does look just like her.

Paul R. Lehman, Changing America from a racist society will require time and patience.

September 8, 2013 at 5:25 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American Indian, American Racism, blacks, CNN, democracy, discrimination, Emancipation Proclamation, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, identity, immigration, justice, mixed-marriage, President Lincoln, Race in America, skin color, Slavery, The U.S. Constitution, whites | 1 Comment
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Turn on the television, the radio, or even the internet and we find the common use of the word race in a variety of ways. We have been told that racism is a belief that people of various biological races have different qualities and characteristics that make them inherently superior or inferior to others. In American we have what is known as white racism. That means people believe that a white race exists and that this race is superior to all others. This belief came into existence in America as early as the middle 1500s when the Spanish would hunt, capture, and sell Indians into slavery. The words racism and racist as well as a host of others are derived from the word race. In America of the 1600s the word race was meant to indicate social and economic status and not color because the slaves in America during this time and later were of various skin colors. Counted among the slaves were Indians, Europeans, and Africans.
The demand for slaves created a problem for the ruling Europeans who quickly embraced the importation of Africans to fill the labor gap. With the introduction of the African into the system of slavery, the ruling Europeans decided to create a buffer among the slaves by giving special privileges to the European or white slaves. We are told that “In 1705, masters were forbidden to ‘whip a Christian white servant naked.’ Nakedness was for brutes, the uncivil, and 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.” This was done to create a bond between the wealthy whites and the poor whites as well as create a distinction among the slaves. We learn that “By means of such acts, social historian Edmond Morgan arguers, the tobacco planters and ruling elite of Virginia raised the legal status of lower—class white relative to that of Negroes and Indians, whether free, servant or slave.”(See America’s Race Problem: A Practical Guide to Understanding Race in America)
So, the element of color became a major factor in America’s system of slavery as well as society in general, because all the Africans living in America were not now nor had ever been slaves. Color and Christianity became the criteria for discriminating against people. The problem of free Africans and Indians living in society along side Europeans was a problem for the Europeans. Making a contrast based on the physical appearance of the African and Indian became the primary criteria for creating biases. American society decided to create two biological races, one black, and one white based primarily on color of skin. We wonder why they did not create a race for the Indians. The white race was made to be superior to the black race in every respect. In essence, this was the beginning of racism based on color. Because the ruling class of Europeans had the power and control to create such a fabrication as race it became accepted by society.
Regardless of the truth of a concept, according to scholars, if it is repeated constantly for the benefit of some people, they will after a while ignore the fact that the concept is a fabrication and accept it for fact or truth. That has become the case with the belief in two races, both supposedly biologically different with one being superior to the other. Because of the acceptance of such a belief America and Americans became a racist society.
Some two hundred years after the introduction of slavery in American, we can see how thoroughly the biased and false concept of two races had affected America. When we examine the words of President Abe Lincoln in 1862 as he spoke to a group of free men of color, we recognize the conviction of his belief in race by color: “You [African Americans] and we [European Americans] are different races. We have between us a broader difference than exists between almost any other two races.” The broader difference Lincoln speaks of is basically, color; other differences existed because the slaves and free African Americans were prevented from experiencing those things written in the” Declaration of Independence” the “Constitution” about rights, freedom and justice.
What makes race so confusing in America is that it was illogically conceived using color as the base for determining superiority and inferiority. How can a society base superiority or inferiority on color and at the same time have slaves and free men of the same color exhibiting totally different characteristics attributed to differences of the condition and status of each individual? Logic does not enter the thinking process when one has accepted as truth or fact that races based on color really exist. Nonetheless, President Lincoln firmly believed that the two races and should be separated because they could not live together in peace because of their color. Fortunately, Lincoln later changed his mind about the latter.
So, what is the point of this discussion? When we examine the past objectively, we can understand many of the things taking place today, and why they are taking place. When American came into being, it came as a society that believed in race by class and economics; later color was added to the mix. One thought dominated the general thinking, however, and that was the supremacy of the whites. In effect, America wanted to be known as a white society with different classes of whites. Other non-European ethnicities were not considered suited for citizenship, but were allowed to live here. For over four-hundred-years or more the most cherished beliefs among many Americans are their white identity and that America is a white country—their country. The concept of race has undergone new analysis and the results reveal that only one race of human being exists in spite of color. So, the theories and beliefs that were created to separate various human beings from each other because of color are being debunked.
Unfortunately, as a society we have not pulled away from our use of the word race and all its derivatives that keep us tethered to the biased past. So, we continue to use words like racist, racism, etc…as if they are valid and accurate. In America, an African American cannot be a racist, if we accept the definition of that word, because in America, African Americans have never had the power or control to create the concept of race superiority and maintain and promote it. He can certainly be biased and prejudiced because those feelings are purely related to the individual, not a group or so-called race. America has been a racist society for a long time, so some patience is required while change is taking place. Progress for some people is very hard.

Oprah Winfrey experiences discrimination in Switzerland boutique

August 11, 2013 at 1:12 pm | Posted in African American, blacks, discrimination, Disrespect, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, Media and Race, Prejudice, tourism, whites | 2 Comments
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Oprah Winfrey recently reported that she experienced discrimination while shopping for a purse in Switzerland. The event occurred according to Winfrey when “a clerk at Trois Pommes, a pricey Zurich boutique, refused to show her a $38,000 handbag, telling one of the world’s richest women that she wouldn’t be able to afford it.” Apparently, the clerk did not recognize Winfrey or she would not have refused to show her the purse. The more important question relative to this experience is why was Winfrey’s request to see the purse rejected. Winfrey called the incident an act of racism, but there is more to this incident than meets the eye.
In the aftermath of the incident, we are told that “Swiss tourism officials and the boutique owner were quick to offer apologies Friday. ‘We are very sorry for what happened to her, of course, because we think all of our guest and clients should be treated respectfully, in a professional way,’” The boutique owner, Trudie Goetz, tried to make excuses for the clerk by claiming that because the clerk is mainly an Italian speaker she lacked the proper communication skills and “I believe she [the clerk] rather said something like ‘we have some less expensive—we also have some less expensive bags’ and not ‘it’s too expensive for you.’”
Of course, Goetz’s offering in defense of her clerk makes little sense because how would the clerk know what is and what is not in a customer’s price range? Also, why would she assume that Winfrey could not afford the purse simply by looking at her? The fact is that she could not know whether Winfrey could afford the purse, but assumed simply by looking at her that she could not afford it. Why? Stereotypes. African Americans as well as other people of color are generally the recipients of negative stereotypes. Why? The negative stereotypes are the product of American and Western propaganda that presents and portrays African Americans as not worthy of significant social value or respect.
For many years the images of the African American sent out of America showed him to be poor, ignorant, literate, simple, lazy, dishonest, a lier, a thief, a clown, and generally lacking morals or decency along with a host of other negative stereotypes. Few if any of the pictures of African Americans were complimentary. So, naturally people of color from other countries did not want to be viewed in that negative light; therefore, in spite of all the positive contributions African Americans have made to America and the world, being an American of color was not viewed positively. Today, when people of color come to America, they deliberately retain their cultural and geographical identity for fear of being mistaken as an African American because of the stereotypes. If Winfrey had gotten someone to announce her arrival at the boutique, she would have received VIP treatment because wealthy African Americans who travel outside the U.S.A. are generally well-received if their presence is made known. The average African American, however, falls into the category composed of negative stereotypes.
To be sure, the image of the European American is equally composed of stereotypes, but they are generally the opposite from those of the African Americans. The images in question come from movies, news stories, magazines and books. For years, many people in foreign countries thought that European Americans did not work, but simply went shopping, golfing, or to the beach every day, always having fun and enjoying life. When images of African Americans were presented, the context was usually in a 2nd-class role or some other negative stereotype, usually involving protest or violence crimes. Rarely was an African American pictured as wealthy, educated, and non-threatening.
So, once we understand the history of the African American experience relative to the negative stereotyped images of them outside of America, we can begin to understand that the discrimination Winfrey experienced was not necessarily based on her personally, but on the image held by the clerk relative to people of color or African Americans in general. We know for certain that Winfrey experienced discrimination, but we cannot say that it was based on ethnicity or race. People can be discriminated against for a plethora of reasons, so race does not have to be the primary or only reason. Many people in America are profiled and discriminated against every day, not simply because of their skin color, but also because they are assumed to be in a particular socio-economic class.
Whether in America or some other country, stereotypes of people exists and those stereotypes serve as the bases for discrimination. Winfrey’s experience should serve as a lesson for business owners that serve the public—never judge a book by its cover, or a customer on how he or she looks. What was the worst thing that could have happened had the clerk showed Winfrey the purse? No sale. The best thing would have been a large commission for a sale. No individual is guilty of racism because racism is a group identity; bigotry is the choice of the individual. To say the clerk was guilty of racism would indict a so-called race of people of which he or she is only a representative; however, to refer to him or her as a bigot places the responsibility for discrimination squarely on his or her shoulders. That being said does not excuse or forgive what Winfrey experienced.
For certain Switzerland’s tourism officials and the boutique owner offered apologies for Winfrey’s treatment, but Winfrey, on the other hand, might be correct is her assessment of her experience as racist, because the first paragraph of the Associate Press story (8-10-13)provides this food for thought: “Switzerland is a glamorous playground of the rich and famous, filled with glitterati from princes to movie stars. It’s a land with a sometimes uneasy relationship with foreigners—especially when they aren’t white.” For people of color knowing that piece of information before making the trip could be helpful. After all, for one to be fore-warned also means to be fore-armed.

Riley Cooper’s fine for using an ethnic slur avoids the real problem

August 4, 2013 at 5:01 pm | Posted in African American, American Racism, Bigotry in America, blacks, Disrespect, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, Media and Race, minority, Race in America, skin color, Slavery | Leave a comment
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Many Americans like to play a game called “Let’s Pretend,” where they know something to be real, but pretend that it does not exist or they have no knowledge of it. Such is the case with comments surrounding Philadelphia Eagles’ wide receiver Riley Cooper. The team fined Cooper for saying that “he would fight every ‘n—–‘ at a Kenny Chesney concert in Philadelphia.” The pretending comes into play when many people react to the news like they did not know that many Americans still use the N word. We know that this ethnic slur is used on a regular basis by many Americans, so what is the problem?
The problem with Cooper using the N word is that he used it in a place he thought was safe to use it, but he got caught. He evidently forgot that being a high-profile person in a large city meant someone had a camera on him at all times. The owner of the Eagles, Jeffrey Lurie, remarked that “We are shocked and appalled by Riley Cooper’s words,” and continued by stating that “This sort of behavior or attitude from anyone has no role in a civil society. He has accepted responsibility for his words and his actions. He has been fined for this incident.” (Upi.com/Sports) For Cooper, the fine is a reminder to make sure the area is safe before any word is used that could result in another fine. As far as behavior and attitude regarding non-European ethnic American players are concerned, Lurie should address his concerns with the entire organization.
With respect to Cooper and his use of the N word, chances are he grew up in an environment where the word was used by people as part of their everyday speech. We Americans like to pretend that all bigotry and prejudice has been eliminated from society because we are now all civil. The reality is that many Americans did not get the memo about ethnic slurs being unacceptable in a civil society or if they did get the memo just ignored it. Many European Americans grew up in communities where the use of the N word was a regular part of everyday conversations. For anyone growing up in such a community considering the N word as something unacceptable was unthinkable. No one comes into this word creating his or her own values and standards, but simply learn and accept without question what is already in place. In many instances, some people do not learn until latter in life that certain words are considered ethnic slurs. My statements are not meant to dismiss the use and power of ethnic slurs regardless of how they were acquired. My concern is that when a problem such as Cooper’s occurs, simply fining him is not the answer to the problem. The problem is not that he used the N word, but why.
Society has done a disservice to many Americans by not clearing the air concerning the myth of race. America is a diverse society, but also one that embraced bigotry and prejudice. When American slavery created the two races—black and white, it also created the element of color to be used to keep these races separate. When one so-called race is made to think it superior to other so-called races, then bigotry and prejudice comes into play. America has yet to debunk the myth so many people still hold on to the belief that multiple races of human beings exist and are inferior to the so-called white race. We are led to believe that all is well in society because all people possess the same rights and privileges. While we know that bigotry and prejudice still exist, we pretend that they all in the past.
The fine accessed against Cooper does nothing to inform him relative to why the fine was given. The message that action sent to the other players was not to get caught using ethnic slurs. That is the wrong message to send because it does nothing to inform Cooper and others why the use of ethnic slurs are not socially acceptable. What Lurie should do is institute a program where his entire organization can learn about American diversity and how we are all human being with the same social value regardless of our skin color. An explanation of why using ethnic slurs would be more beneficial than just a fine. To some people who see nothing wrong with using ethnic slurs as long as one is not detected, they lack the knowledge and understanding of their perception of themselves and others.
America gets its strength through is diversity, so when Americans are educated about diversity it should not focus on the things that make ethnic groups different from one another, but what makes them alike. The differences among ethnic groups are derived through human efforts—economical, educational, geographical, and cultural; these differences have nothing to do with biology. So, the idea of ethnic superiority has nothing to do with color. If programs spend time teaching the differences among ethnic groups, then these programs are counter-productive. The concern in teaching about diversity is to show just how much alike human being really are, not what makes them different.
Cooper understands that what he did was not socially acceptable, he said “I shouldn’t have. I ‘m disgusted. And I’m sorry. That’s not the type of person I am. I wasn’t raised that way.” We, unfortunately, do not know what he meant by “that way.” He continued by stating that “I have a great mom and dad at home. And they’re extremely, extremely disappointed in me. They are disgusted with my actions.” What we see in Cooper’s comments is a lack of understanding of why he made the comment; he knows that he should not have made it, we just see how embarrassed he was about the negative press he received and how it affected his parents. In order to try and prevent a repeat performance, Cooper should be made aware of why he made the comment in the first place. He needs to know that he is not alone in this situation, that many of his colleagues are as ignorant as is he regarding the myth of race, diversity, and ethnicity; they just do a better job hiding their ignorance.

Cherrios commercial a positive sign of growth in America accepting its ethnic diversity

June 9, 2013 at 1:14 pm | Posted in African American, American Dream, American Racism, blacks, commercials, desegregation, Disrespect, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, integregation, justice, Media and Race, minority, mixed-marriage, Prejudice, Public housing, segregation, skin color, U.S. Supreme Court, whites | 2 Comments
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All the negative comments concerning the ethnic Americans in the Cheerios commercial are signs of growing pains in American society. The pains come from both African Americans and European Americans having to deal with the ignorance, segregation, and bigotry that have been part of the social atmosphere since slavery. The commercial is doing double duty by forcing society to see what is happening in the real world while challenging those ignorant, isolated, and bigoted people to reevaluate their perspectives.
Many Americans today still believe in the concept of multiple biological races with the so-called white race being special and different from all the so-called other races. That being the case, any examples of race mixing involving a European American (white) with any other ethnic American diminishes the strength of the white race. Therefore, all races mixing involving so-called whites are frowned upon. Because of the social value placed on the European American by European Americans, for one to be intimately involved with an ethnic American is a sign of low self-esteem and self-worth. Although most Americans know that to hold and express those beliefs is an indication of ignorance relative to America’s social environment today and a far cry from reality. For some people, the so-called white identity is the only thing of value they have, so to have that threatened is of major concern. For some people, loosing their white identity would be devastating because they have no idea of who they are without that identity. They choose not to accept the truth and progress of America’s diverse society, and like children not wanting to hear something they already know, stick their fingers in their ears thinking that if they do not hear what is being said, it will not exist. Such is ignorance.
Segregation and separation of ethnic Americans present opportunities to create stereotypes that living in an integrated or even desegregated society could easily debunk. After World War II ended and the troops came home, the government found that housing was a problem, so it created help for the veterans through the GI Bill and FHA. While these programs were great for the country, they provided little help for the African Americans. The new housing additions that were created were segregated. The housing additions led to the creation of segregated communities that included churches, school, and public facilities. For example, in Oklahoma City before 1954, African Americans could visit the public zoo only on Thursdays; state parks were off limits for African Americans also. So, without direct interaction with other ethnic Americans, European Americans were free to create any stereotype they desired.
To be sure, African Americans living in a segregated society and communities also held stereotype of European Americans. The belief that European Americans were superior to other ethnic groups was part of the educational package taught to all students while the negative stereotypes were constantly underscored in the newspapers, movies, radio and television. The idea of the African American knowing “his place” had to do with the African American knowing that the European American had more social value than he and that he must respect that superiority regardless of the social and economic status of the European American and that of the African American. For some Americans that concept of European American superiority still exists and should remain forever. So, when a commercial presents a mixed ethnic American couple and their child, some people who live segregated lives, fear the change because of what they believe they will lose as a group.
One of the primary reactions to the Cheerios commercial can be identified as ethnic bigotry. A large segment of the European American population born and raised in America entered this world that was filled with ethnic bias against African Americans. All the social institutions promoted the concept of American being a European American country that permitted other ethnic Americans to live here. But make no mistake about it; they believe that American belonged to only them. The concept of democracy, equality, fairness, freedom for all is fine as far as lip service goes, but when it comes to actual change in the direction of diversity, the game changes. When they see or witness things that go contrary to their beliefs, they become upset and angry.
What the commercial has done is bring a touch of reality and changes in society to the forefront. The fact that American’s diverse population is growing and gaining more power is reflected in the commercial. Another thing that was not so obvious but well supported was the fact that the old European American standard of beauty is under attack. Most reasonable viewers would consider all the actors to be attractive, handsome, or good-looking. In essence, if the European American female finds the African American male handsome, then the concept of European American standard of beauty is being ignored. That fact alone is enough for bigots to feel threatened and fearful. At one point in American society, the color of one’s skin determined if beauty could even be considered let alone recognized and appreciated. Now, along comes this commercial that throws a monkey wrench into the entire concept of so-called race and separation.
Whether it was intentional or not, the Cheerios commercial brought to public scrutiny a major problem many Americans must face—a changing society and world. The problem is not the fact that people from different ethnic groups form relationships, because diversity has always been a part of the American experience. The problem is that the diverse relationships had always been kept in check through segregation and out of the public eye. When an example of a diverse ethnic couple came to public view, it was always viewed as extraordinary, unusual. For years legal segregation and biases created boundaries that made miscegenation unacceptable to society. After the Supreme Court ruled in 1954 that public facilities must be opened to all Americans, other laws soon followed that made it possible for different ethnic groups to interact with one another in public. That interaction today is a common occurrence and generally accepted as normal behavior.
So, for those folks who found the Cheerios commercial negative and uncomfortable, they need to realize that their idea of America needs to catch up with reality. Society changes whether we want it to or not. If we choose not to accept the reality of change, we will be left angry and frustrated wondering what is the world coming to. Recognizing the changes does not mean our readily accepting them, but it does mean that they exist and have been validated by at least a significant segment of society. So, here’s to Cheerios– Eat up! They’re good for your heart!

Ethnic ignorance part of the debris cleaned-up by student volunteers

June 2, 2013 at 1:31 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, desegregation, Disrespect, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, Ladanae Thompson, minority, Oklahoma, Oklahoma education, Prejudice, public education, Race in America, The Oklahoman | 1 Comment
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An article printed in The Oklahoman (5-2-13) showed just how uninformed and steeped in ignorance certain segments of society still are. The article, “Douglass Students battle stigma through volunteering,” involved a group of Douglas High school students, a predominately African American school, traveled to a small town in Oklahoma that had been hit by a tornado to help with the clean-up efforts. Being neighborly, they wanted to show their compassion and caring towards the people who had been affected. Upon arriving at the town, some of the town’s people were alarmed at the sight of all these African American youths. Their first reaction was defensive because they though these young people had ridden in busses to their town to loot and steal whatever they could from the damaged area of town. The article noted that “A resident expressed fears of looting when the group arrived for the cleanup effort Friday.” The local people, evidently, relied on stereotypes relative to the school and its African American students for their fears.
According to the article, “The Oklahoma City School’s sophomore class helped clean up tornado damage in Little Axe, but first some local residents had to be convinced that the young people were there for a good purpose.” Little Axe is a rural community about 20 miles from Norman, Oklahoma with a population of predominately of European Americans. So, seeing several busloads of young African Americans in the town was not a customary occurrence. However, to assume these students had come to Little Axe in school buses to loot and steal defies common sense. In any event, we are told that “Matt Tilley, a 10th-grade English teacher and trip organizer, said Wednesday that he had to vouch for the students.” We wonder what is meant by Tilley having to “vouch for the students.” We know what the word “vouch” means, but why would students sitting in big yellow school buses need to be validated by their teacher to the local resident? Although the article did not state it, we must assume that Tilley is European American, and the resident would not accept the word of the students.
The students apparently thought that volunteering to help at a site damaged by a tornado would be welcomed. We learned that “About 120 students worked in teams for four hours to remove tree branches and debris from residents’ home and take it to the curb.” In addition, “Many of the students had never volunteered before nor had they seen such intense tornado damage.” So, this trip was an opportunity for both the students and the residents to learn something about each other.
The reaction of the residents of Little Axe made a serious and troubling statement about the lack of information in our society regarding the changes in the negative stereotype of ethnic Americans. What we can recognize in the residents reaction is that society in general, and the media specifically helps to promote the negative stereotypes of ethnic Americans rather than the positive. In effect, most Americans see or read about non-European Americans generally in a negative context. The positive activities and events associated with Ethnic Americans are not usually promoted. We can use this article as an example of limited access to the media. The chances are the efforts of these young Douglass High students would not have been covered by the press and come to public awareness had it not been for the negative reaction they received from some of the residents of Little Axe. The attention these students would have received by the media without the negative reactions from Little Axe would not have been considered worthy of reporting. Could it be that the actions of these students did not fit the stereotype?
For years Americans have been living in segregated communities not interacting with people who do not look like them. Our educational institutions as well as the media contribute to the ignorance we have concerning our fellow citizens. So, when we are confronted with people we are not accustomed to seeing in our community, the lack of accurate and current information about these citizens serve to create fear and negative stereotypes we have been fed for far too many years.
One student commented on the reaction of a resident’s fear stated that “’They had heard so much news from Douglass about fights or stealing, they probably expected it to happen there, too, but it never happened.’” Society and the media have a long history is creating and promoting negative stereotypes regarding ethnic Americans. Because the majority of stories involving ethnic Americans is negative and generally involves crimes, the fear of some ethnic Americans is created. What are obvious to many ethnic American males are the actions of mature European American women who clutch their purses tighter, lock their car doors, and cross the street to the other side when they see an ethnic American walking towards them. Although these actions are good measures to be taken in generally for safety reasons, it takes the sight of an Ethnic American to trigger the response.
What the people of Little Axe did not realize is that the world and society has and continues to change whether they know it or not. Their community seems to be closed to all but the inhabitants and anyone else became suspect especially if he or she happens to be ethnic American. However, something happened, according to the article, “When the residents saw what the students could do, their attitudes changed. The young students saw tears, received thank you notes and were invited back to Little Axe.” The experience turned out to be a learning one for both the students and the residents. The Douglass students were looking for an opportunity to contribute in a positive way: “Our class motto is ‘with our own hands,’ and it’s basically saying when a road to success can’t be found we build one with our own hands, and that’s pretty much what we did,’ Douglass sophomore Ladanae Thompson said.” She added that “We helped clean up. We helped another community with our own hands; that is what the class of 2015 is trying to do.”
We trust that the residents of Little Axe and similar communities can benefit from this experience where people can discard long-held negative stereotypes and beliefs of ethnic Americans and embrace the common sense reality of people just wanting to help other people. We will, however, need the media, our educational institutions and society to step-up their contributions in presenting a more balanced and realistic picture of America with all its diversity.

Journalists’ use of race by color continues to create confusion

April 30, 2013 at 12:01 am | Posted in African American, Alzheimer's disease, blacks, Daniel Chang, DNA, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, Human Genome, Media and Race, minority, Race in America, skin color, The New York Times, University of Miami, whites | 2 Comments
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Two articles reporting on “Alzheimer’s disease in blacks” arrived at different conclusions about the study’s affect on African Americans. The first article discussed here in the last blog was written by Daniel Chang in the Miami Herald (4/11/13) entitled “Researchers identify possible new gene linked to Alzheimer’s disease in blacks.” The earlier article in The New York Times (4/9/13) written by Gina Kolata is entitled “In Blacks, Alzheimer’s Study Finds Same Variant Genes as in Whites.” We find some interesting similarities as well as differences in comparing these two articles that focused on the same topic: Alzheimer’s disease in blacks.
Actually, the similarities are few; first, they include a reference to “Alzheimer’s disease in blacks” in their headlines. Next, they both discuss the gene ABCA7. Other similarities might exist, but these two are the major ones. The Chang article suggested that the important concern is that this ABCA7 gene is found in blacks and is also linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Of course, we had problems with the use of the word blacks. The only reference to blacks by Kolata appears in the headline. Obviously, someone else could have written the headline for Kolata’s article without fully reading or appreciating the text.
The differences between the Chang article and Kolata’s are many, but the major ones verify the comments made in the last blog by Chang regarding the use of blacks as an identity. Nowhere in Kolata’s article does the reference to blacks appear. Because of this deliberate act, the readers are spared any confusion about the study or who it involves “African-Americans have a slightly higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease than people of largely European ancestry, but there is no major genetic difference that could account for the slight excess risk, new research shows.” In effect, no major concerns for African Americans acquiring Alzheimer’s disease were detected as a result of this study. This statement is contrary to the Chang statement:”University of Miami medical school researchers working with geneticist and physicians from other institutions have identified a new gene associated with Alzheimer’s disease in blacks, a finding that doctors say could help them prescribe more effective drugs for patients affected by the disease.”
The Kolata article does not place emphasis on blacks as does the Chang article, but on the disease; it says that “The results are from one of the only large studies ever done on Alzheimer’s in African-Americans. Researchers identified the same gene variant in older African-Americans that they had found in older people of European ancestry.” Chang’s article never mentions people of European ancestry. Kolata’s article continued, noting that the study “…found that African-Americans with Alzheimer’s disease were slightly more likely to have one gene, ABCA7 that is thought to confer risk for the disease.” In addition, the Kolata article noted that “Another gene, AP0E4, long known to increase Alzheimer’s risk in older white people, was present in about the same proportion of African-Americans with Alzheimer’s as it is in people of European ancestry.”This quote mentions the word “white” for the first and only time in the article.
So, what is the point being made here? The point is when ethnic identity is used and clearly defined, such as in African American and European ancestry or European Americans little confusion occurs. When color is used as ethnic identity, no one knows for certain who is being identified. The fact that the Chang article used blacks only suggested that some biological difference appeared in African Americans that did not exist in European Americans. The use of color, be it black or white, always suggest race and different races at that. Using the terms African American and people of European ancestry in her article, Kolata avoids the confusion associated with the color words.
We can compliment Kolata on her avoidance of suggesting a so-called racial difference in the Alzheimer’s study when she commented that “The researchers calculated that ABCA7 increased Alzheimer’s risk by about 80 percent in African- Americans, compared with about 10 percent to 20 percent in people of European ancestry. “ She added that “Those are considered modest increases; a gene that carries a significant risk would increase the chances of getting a disease by well over 200 percent.” She continued by noting that “…ABCA7 was not very common, still leaving most Alzheimer’s risk unexplained. About 9 of every 100 African-American with Alzheimer’s had the gene, compared with 6 out of 100 who did not have the disease.”
All the attention to blacks paid by Chang was totally unnecessary. One Alzheimer’s researcher, Dr. John Hardy, commented on the study by applauding the participants for their focus on minorities then “cautioned that the difference in risk between African-Americans and those of European ancestry who had ABCA7 was unlikely to be meaningful.” Actually, the Chang article seemed to promote race and racial differences as the focus of his article when the information did not support it. The Kolata article presented the study information in a clear and unbiased way. Her article is a good example of how ethnic identities rather than race can be used positively and effectively. Other journalists would do well to follow her example

Paul R. Lehman,The concept of a post-racial society conceals the misdeeds of America’s past and present.

April 14, 2013 at 12:52 pm | Posted in Affirmative Action, African American, American Bigotry, American Racism, blacks, Civil War, college admission, desegregation, discrimination lawsuit, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, identity, integregation, justice, minority, Race in America, segregation, skin color, Slavery, The Thirteenth Amendment, The U.S. Constitution, U.S. Supreme Court, University of Texas, whites | 2 Comments
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An article that appeared in the grio posed the questions:”has the nation lived down its history of racism and should the law become colorblind?” (4/1/13) These questions were asked in conjunction with the two cases before the Supreme Court, one case deals with affirmative action, the other focuses on voting rights. Although both questions involve some aspect of the same topic, race, they need to be addressed separately, and in a different context from the general public concept. Let us look first at the question about racial preference and racism.
The first thing we need to address is the fact that America and the government created race based on color. Two races were created, one black and the other white. These races were not created on anything other than the color for a person’s skin. Later many scientists, scholars, ministers, and a host of other players tried to justify race from a biological perspective, to no avail because any person who looked white could be white. So, while the definition protected people with fair complexions, it was no guarantee that the race of these people was correct or valid. So, society added ancestry to the definition of race via color, but only African Ancestry. In other words, if a person had any African ancestry, that person was considered black regardless of how they looked. The problem with race defined by color was finally addressed by U. S. law in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) but proved to be something of a joke– Homer Plessy’s complexion was so light, that his arrest for sitting in a seat reserved for white-only had to be staged. None the less, the law was kept in place.
America made these two races distinct in that they represented opposite values. The so-called white race was given power, privilege, and prestige. If one was upper-classed white, wealthy or educated, then he or she was considered normal. Otherwise, being white just placed one above all other non-whites. For the so-called black race or Negroes, as they were also called, they represented negative stereotypes that included ignorance, laziness, worthlessness, untrustworthiness, and repulsiveness along with a host of other despicable characteristics. All these elements were promoted by the so-called white race to be biological features of the so-called black race. Society created, promoted and enforced laws and practices that discriminated against and segregated people of the so-called black race.
Before and during the time of the Civil War many people, European Americans as well as African Americans worked towards eliminating slavery and discrimination of African Americans. Once the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments were passed by Congress with pressure from President Lincoln and others, African Americans were recognized as citizens of the United State of America. That meant that only whites and blacks were citizens since no other race was recognized.
For African Americans, being citizens of the United States did not end discrimination, hatred and bigotry. As a matter of fact, negative feelings against African Americans began to manifest in acts of violence by so-called white vigilante gangs that included acts of lynching. Although America has always been a diverse society, it acted like a monolith of European Americans. They still held on to the philosophy of Manifest Destiny—this country belongs to them because God gave it to them to take and possess. Although many diverse societies existed in America, the country projected two so-called races—black and white, under the rubric of one country, America. The so-called black race was never treated fairly nor equally by society until the laws of the country was challenged in courts, and especially, the Supreme Court. The 1954 Supreme Court decision of Brown v. Topeka began the change in the social structure of America. According to the law, African Americans could no longer be treated as unequals in public facilities. Unfortunately, the change in the law did not affect the minds of many American who saw the law as a form of discrimination against their rights. Therefore, they continued to maintain and enforce an atmosphere of segregation and discrimination against African Americans until the Civil Rights Acts of 1964, 1965, 1968.
During the time from the beginning of America creating to two races until the Civil Rights Acts, the race America called white enjoyed the liberties of freedom, life and the pursuit of happiness without reservation. Now that America has decided to live up to its promise of fair and just treatment for all its citizens, the so-called white race wants to cry discrimination because it cannot continue to discriminate on the basis of its so-called race. The court case involving university admissions at the University of Texas is said to be based on racial preference for African American students. Actually, if the University of Texas did not show some preference to African American students, it would still be discriminating against them based on past social history and practice. They were formerly denied admission based on their so-called race, so not to consider their so-called race for admission would be seen as unjust or unfair.
Another problem exists regarding this case, that is, how will race be defined since color is not a reliable indicator of race and DNA will show that all people have some African ancestry? The fact that America created two so-called races based on color has come back to haunt and trouble us since the European Americans no longer control the definition of race in America. Race should have been replaced by ethnic group and ethnicity since the 1940s, but to do that would have meant a loss of power, privilege and prestige for the European Americans. What society could not bring it to do; Mother Nature is doing for it. In a few more years, the ethnic minority in America will become the majority and the concept of a black race and white race will become so complex and confusing that it will have to become a thing of the past.
So, if the court wants to avoid the problem of having to deal with race, it should simply look at the people who have been denied social and economic justice in our society and do the fair and just thing by them without regard to a so-called race. The idea of a post-racial society is just a way of trying to avoid the realities of discrimination and bigotry that have been a part of America’s history. America created the problem; it can resolve it.

Paul R. Lehman, Why is America experiencing a changing reality in race and color

March 31, 2013 at 12:36 pm | Posted in African American, American Indian, blacks, Chief Justice John Roberts, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, Hispanic whites, justice, Media and Race, Prejudice, Race in America, whites | 1 Comment
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Some African Americans do not like the term African American because they believe it links them directly to Africa. Basically, what they generally think of Africa is not very complimentary because of the images of Africa that American society created when ethnic bias was fashionable. Rather than picture it as the diverse continent it is, Africa was described as a dark, mysterious, cannibalistic, dangerous place where ignorant savages lived. The natives were so ignorant that the fictional white man who ruled the African natives, Tarzan, had a chimp as a partner rather than an African man. Tarzan was called “King of the Jungle” although he was not born there and was raised by apes. That image of Africa was created to discourage African Americans from wanting to embrace it as their homeland. The idea promoted was that it was better to be a slave in America than a savage in Africa. Of course, anyone with an elementary education knows what a tremendously important Africa is to the world and its history. Unfortunately, many people still hold on to the negative concept of Africa.
How people view themselves has a direct impact on what they say about themselves and especially how they act. For example, if someone is called a thug and accepts that identity, then he will use the language associated with being a thug. In addition, his behavior will reflect his idea of how a thug acts. The same thing applies to people who identify themselves as black or white—they speak and behave the way they belief they are expected to speak and behave. Most often their examples are passed on to their children and family. In this way ignorance about race and identity is embraced and promoted.
We know for certain that no such thing as a pure 100% black or white person exist on the planet. Yet, we bought into the absurd concept of “one drop” of blood changing a person’s so-called race from white to black. When America created and enforced the concept to two races—black and white, the other associated concepts like racism, biracial, mixed race, racial etc… were not challenged successfully. However, today we know better, but keep doing and saying the things that reinforce the false and negative concepts of race. For example, some scientist will conduct studies using as subjects black and white people. The problem with those kinds of studies is that black and white is never defined. In effect, does the terms black refer to only people with very dark skin or was the term used to suggest all African Americans? If it was the latter, then were light-skinned African Americans included? Many Americans with dark complexions are not African Americans. Would they be included in such a study? If they were not, then of what value was the study?
Most social scientists and historians know that in America, social and economic status along with ethnic identity play a major role in people achieving their American Dream. Historically, non-European Americans have encountered a more challenging experience is striving for and achieving their dream because of ethnic prejudice. Since the late 1960’s more non-European ethnic Americans have achieved success because the Civil Rights Acts have removed some of the social barriers that obstructed success. Unfortunately, many of those barriers remain, but in a subtle state. Part of the problem has to do with how people view themselves and each other. When Americans view themselves as black and white, they simply reflect the ideology of America’s past that embraced two races. The terms African American and European American eliminate the two race concept and underscore the one family of man concept. When all people belong to the same race or family, comparisons relating to superiority or inferiority of race will decline. However, prejudice among ethnic groups will also exist, but not on a biological race bases. If all people belong to the same family, they can express differences in beliefs, culture, religion etc…but not racial differences.
We create problems for ourselves and our children when we send mixed messages to them regarding a so-called racial identity. For example, when a child has been taught in a General Science class that all people belong to the same race, how do the parents who maintain an identity based on color resolve the conflict for the child? Interestingly enough, CNN had a series of programs about who is black in America. Unfortunately, the program caused problems for a number of young African American ladies because they did not know who they were, thinking that they were either black or white. Seemingly, the majority of people with this problem of identity in America are the African Americans. Other people of color use their cultural or geographical identity like Cuban, Jamaican, Haitian, Puerto Rican, etc… The identity conveyed by these identities leaves no doubt about the culture and geography of the individual. Black and white, on the other hand, give no information whatsoever other than color. Even if American is added to these words, they still provide little meaning until the history of American slavery is brought into the picture.
If we need evidence that the word black is no longer applicable as a reference to African Americans, we can look at the recent comments made by Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Roberts, during the hearing of arguments concerning voting rights:”At one point in the oral argument held Feb. 27, 2013, Roberts asked Verrilli, “Do you know which state has the worst ratio of white voter turnout to African-American voter turnout?”(The Boston Globe.com) Roberts used the term African American on numerous occasions during the hearing rather than the word black. (Now we need to get him to use the term European American instead of white)
In addition to the Roberts use of the term African American, we need to know that efforts have been underway for a number of years now to build a museum in Washington, D.C. to house and exhibit information relative to the African American experience in America. The name of this museum is The National Museum of African American History and Culture. Our world and society are changing and either we change with them or be left behind.
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