Paul R. Lehman,Ethnic bigotry on the judicial bench—a case in point

May 3, 2017 at 12:10 am | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American history, Bigotry in America, black inferiority, blacks, Criticism, democracy, discrimination, Disrespect, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, European Americans, fairness, interpretations, justice, justice system, law, Oklahoma, race, Race in America, respect, skin color, social justice system, socioeconomics, the 'n' word, The Oklahoman, white supremacy | 1 Comment
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Many Americans believe that as a society we have made tremendous progress in our acceptance of one another as equals regardless of our skin color. Although we would like to believe this, the fact of the matter is that ethnic bigotry permeates the whole of American society in the system of European American (white) supremacy. In many cases, the bigotry is subtle and often passes for ignorance or innocence. At other times, the bigotry is so apparent; it cannot be excused with some form of rationale. One of the features of European American supremacy is expressed in an attitude of superiority over the ideas, opinions, and statements of people of color, especially African Americans. A case in point occurred recently in an article by Randy Ellis, in The Oklahoman, “Black judge: Repeating ‘n’ word in appellate opinion was ‘unnecessary.’(4/29/2017)

According to the article, the only African American judge on the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, Vice Presiding Judge David Lewis, made the statement regarding his fellow judge’s opinion: “I concur in the decision reached by the court in this matter. However I write separately to point out that the author of this opinion did not have to repeat the repugnant language used by the appellant.” Lewis’ words to his colleague, Judge Gary Lumpkin, were to alert him to the sensitivity of the word to him, and indeed to the public, and that he found its frequent repetition unnecessary. Lewis wrote that “The repeated use of the ‘n’ word in this opinion was unnecessary to the reader’s understanding of the language used by the appellant, and unnecessary to the court’s resolution of this case.”

In many cases like this one, the judge receiving comments of this nature would recognize the lack of sensitivity shown in his or her case and offer an apology for the offense and a “thank you” for the cautionary note from the colleague. One would think that a judge on the bench today would be fully apprised of the sensitive nature of the ‘n’ word. The article noted that: “Judge Lumpkin quoted the racial slur verbatim in his opinion, while Lewis used the euphemistic expression ‘n’ word in his criticism.”

What followed, according to the article, underscored the apparent ethnic bigotry that exists not only in society but also on the bench: “Robert Hudson, another judge on the court, defended Lumpkin’s decision to quote the racial slur.” Rather than accepting Lewis’ words to Lumpkin as a form of “corrective criticism,” and an appeal to his better judgment, Hudson interpreted Lewis’ comments as an affront to Lumpkin’s judgment and continued “Our cases reflect reality and that reality is oftentimes not pretty.” In other words, Hudson seems to imply that one reality trumps another reality; in this case, the reference to an African American slur word, which could have easily been avoided, should be used regardless of its offensiveness to his fellow judge and society. The question is why would a judge continued to use an offensive ethnic slur word when he knows that it can easily be avoided. European American arrogance?

Robert Hudson excused Lumpkin’s use of the ‘n’ word by noting that: “’…if we are willing to erase highly relevant—albeit offensive—facts from our opinions, we will send a terrible message to the bench, bar and public that the truth, when objectionable, should be redacted merely to avoid controversy.” Hudson tried to use aspects of the case to make his point, but it fails on the history of prior court practices. The details of a sexual attack perpetrated on some young female would be not reused time and again verbatim if the judge knew that the language was sensitive to her and the court.

The point relative to this article focuses more on the attitude and actions of the two European American judges rather than the actual case. For example, if the three judges were having lunch together, and one of the European American judges started to tell an offensive ethnic joke and the African American judge stopped him and asked that he not tell the joke in his presence because he found it to be offensive, common sense dedicates that a reasonable person would acquiesce and not tell the joke. However, if the other European American judge wanted to hear the joke and encouraged the teller of the joke to continue, we would realize that he had no regards for the feelings of his African America colleague. In addition, he showed disrespect by his actions, and that his selfish desire was more important than his colleague’s feelings and request. The African American’s request was that the joke not be told in his presence, not that it not be told at all.

The system of European American (white) supremacy has conditioned the European Americans to view African Americans and other people of color as inferior regardless of their social, economic, educational, political and judicial status. That system causes European Americans to view reality through a warped sense of value. For example, when the topic of race is ever brought into a conversation, the European American rarely thinks of him or herself as being part of a race. They have been falsely conditioned to view themselves as representatives of the human race—everyone else belongs to a different race. In addition, they see themselves as being the center of the universe and in control of society.

So, when Lewis, the African American judge said to his colleague that he found the repetition of the ‘n’ word to be excessive and unnecessary to the case, Hudson, a European American judge, and colleague of both Lumpkin and Lewis took exception to Lewis’ comments. Lewis had said previously that the repetition of the ‘n’ word verbatim had no direct bearing on the outcome of the case. Hudson used his sense of superiority to castigate Lewis for speaking the truth to his European colleague. So, Hudson had to put the African American judge in his “place” as an inferior. Hudson, seemingly, believed that his opinion regarding Limpkin’s excessive use of the ‘n’ word over-ruled or trumped the opinion of Lewis for no other reason than he was European American.

Some people might think that these comments are simply making a mountain out of a molehill by suggesting that ethnic bigotry was at the core of Hudson’s criticism of Lewis. When read carefully, the article noted that Lewis agreed with the finding of the case. He just felt the use of the ‘n’ word was excessive. Because of the socially biased conditioning of Hudson’s and European Americans generally, their ability to relate to insensitive words or phrases directed at ethnic Americans of color are rarely perceived and understood. However, even large learning curves can be overcome with effort

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Paul R. Lehman, The defense of the ‘n’ word by Charles Barkley cause for concern.

November 18, 2013 at 9:56 pm | Posted in Africa, African American, American Bigotry, American Racism, blacks, discrimination, Disrespect, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, identity, Media and Race, Prejudice, Slavery, whites | Leave a comment
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Charles Barkley recently expressed his thoughts relative to the ‘n’ word and in so doing exposed some gross defects in his thoughts. Barkley confused his freedom of speech with his personal freedoms not fully realizing the responsibilities of each freedom. In his comments on TNT he stated that “What I do with my black friends is not up to White America to dictate to me what’s appropriate and inappropriate.” He is absolutely correct in underscoring his freedom to associate with whomever he chooses. The problems come from his willingness to promote the idea of races based on color, and thereby underscoring the concept of ethnic biases. His thoughts on the use of the ‘n’ word also help to promote ethnic division in America.
As far as Barkley using the ‘n’ word is concerned, he is correct in exercising his freedom of speech. He is incorrect to think that his use of the ‘n’ word is excusable. Barkley is free to eat a gallon of ice cream in one sitting; however, his common sense should tell him that to do so would incur some negative repercussions: stomach discomfort, digestive discomfort, and dietary discomfort. So, although he has the right to eat the ice cream, he understands the negative effects of doing so. What Barkley, apparently, does not realize is the negative effects of using the ‘n’ word in any context.
What Barkley seemingly disregards is the historical significance of the ‘n’ word and how that significance does not change regardless of who utters the word. True, the emotional impact experienced when the word is use by someone historically associated with its negative context cannot be denied, but it is precisely the negative emotional experience related to the historical significance that creates the difference. Barkley supposedly assumes that people who identify with the ‘n’ word are immune from its negative effects when the word is used by people like them. That assumption is false because regardless of the word’s intent, its historical connotations remain intact. He seems to resent the thought of a so-called white America dictating to him what to say and what not to say. One wonders if Barkley realizes that the ‘n’ word was first used by European Americans to identify Africans and African Americans in a grossly negative concept. The continued used of that term regardless of the user simply extends its historically negative concept.
One of the underlining concepts to come from Barkley’s comments is the false belief in multiple races based on color. That concept always serves to separate and divide human beings one from another for false and illogical reasons. One of the results of America’s creation of two races, one black, one white, is the prejudice and bigotry based on the assumed superiority of the so-called white race over the so-called black. Whenever either word black or white is used, the image of two different so-called races comes to mind. A similar experience is possible whenever the ‘n’ word is used. America is changing with respect to ethnic identity and the use of the terms black and white will eventually come into disuse. Society will come to rely more on ethnic identities that are more accurate and precise.
For someone to stand on their rights of free speech with respect to a socially unacceptable word make little sense. The user of the ‘n’ word presents two pictures of himself or herself to society simultaneously: one, a picture of someone who is ignorant of the word’s historical significance, and two, a picture of someone who is selfish and intent on doing emotional harm to another. If, for example, an African American believes using the ‘n’ word around other African Americans is okay, than a false assumption is being made. Not all African Americans accept the use of the ‘n’ word with respect to themselves as well as with respect to others. They understand the negative implications of using the ‘n’ word. Some African Americans believe that while their use of the ‘n’ word is permissible, that is not the case for people who are not African American. Why? If the thinking is that the word was associated in slavery and afterwards with African Americans so it should be reserved for their use only, then that thinking is faulty. No one person or group has a monopoly on the use of a word. The fact that one group sees the word as special to them only means that the word still retains some of its power to do harm.
The late great comic genius, Richard Pryor, used the ‘n’ word for years as a staple in his comedy routine. He even produced an album with the ‘n’ word in the title. He recalled receiving an epiphany on day during a visit to Africa. He was sitting in a hotel in Kenya and began to look around the hotel lobby; he described what he saw as “gorgeous black people, like everyplace else we’d [the people traveling with him] been. The only people you saw were black. At the hotel, on television, in stores, on the street, in the newspapers, at restaurants, running the government, on advertisements. Everywhere.” Pryor realized something for the first time; he turned to his companion and said, “Jennifer. You know what? There are no niggers here…The people here, they still have their self-respect, their pride.”
Pryor realized that the ‘n’ word was given to enslave Africans in America when their personal identity was taken away. Once he understood the historical significance of the ‘n’ word he said that he regretted ever having uttered the word on stage. He went further in describing it as a wretched word and added that “To this day I wish I’d never said the word. I felt its lameness. It was misunderstood by people. They didn’t get what I was talking about. Neither did I … So I vowed never to say it again.”(youtube.com)
The historical significance of the ‘n’ word should discourage anyone from using it or even promoting its use. Regardless of what anyone thinks, changing the context of the word or the setting in which it is used does not change is negative stereotypical connotations. No one wants to deny Barkley his freedom of speech regarding his use of the ‘n’ word, but he need to be aware of its historical significance and the fact that freedom is not free.

Paul R. Lehman, Use of the ‘N’ word never acceptable in society even by entertainers

June 17, 2012 at 12:19 pm | Posted in American Racism, blacks, Disrespect, fairness, Media and Race, minority, Prejudice, whites | 2 Comments
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All words generally have connotations and denotations regardless of their context. If a word’s existence is based on its historical denotation, then that history becomes part of that word regardless of the context. For example, the word ‘history’ retains its basic denotation regardless of the context or connotations. However, if we look at the word ‘bitch’ and examine its denotation, we discover that it means a female dog. When the term is used in other contexts it could mean the act of whining excessively; a person who rides specifically in the middle of a front-seating only car meant for 2 passengers; a woman considered to be spiteful or overbearing; a lewd woman; a man considered to be weak or compatible and a host of other meanings (www.thefreedictionary.com). In the other uses or connotations of the word ‘bitch’ the denotation does not usually influence its use because the connotations generally attack or describe the character of a person. The denotation simply defines the word without making a social judgment.

The ‘N’ word like the word ‘history’ retains it basic denotation regardless of the context in which it is found. Recently, a discussion regarding the use of the ‘N’ word has again come to the fore, so we thought we would provide some comments regarding its usage. If we look at the history of the ‘N’ word we discover that its creation was usage was meant to denigrate people of African and African American heritage. The intended use of the ‘N’ word was to create a derogatory and socially unacceptable association to the people forced to accept it as an identity. The social value of anyone described as an ‘N’ was below that of excrement; hence, the common statement: “a ‘N’ ain’t worth shit.” Any use of the ‘N’ word carries with it that history regardless of the so-called context.

Any number of entertainers have used the ‘N’ word in their work and tried to rationalize its use as part of their 1st Amendment right to free speech. If one considers the right to free speech as permission to say whatever one wishes to say regardless of the implications, then the entertainers are correct. However, if the use of the word carries with it the denigration or insults to people forced to accept that term as an identity, then the use is certainly unacceptable as well as reprehensive. For someone to use the ‘N’ word as part of entertainment suggests a lack of historical knowledge or a disregard for the negative implications it carries. The word cannot be recreated simple because it is used in a different context—the elements of character associated with the ‘N’ word persist regardless of the context. For one to try and argue to the contrary underscores a lack of sound judgment in the face of plain logic. Spelling the ‘N’ word differently does not change its history—the negative implications remain.

Some people maintain the belief that because the ‘N’ word was/is used to identify them that they have the right to pass judgment on the use of the word. How stupid is that? What they fail to realize is that the word was forced on them in the first place, so whatever they try to do to the word is meaningless historically because they did not create or apply it initially. The fact that the ‘N’ word has been applied to African Americans and used by many African Americans within the African American community does not mean that the word has been accepted and approved by African Americans.  As a matter of fact, the African American community disapproves of the ‘N’ word’s use, and rejected it s association to their identity. So, why would anyone want to use the word today and even make excuses for its use? The answer lies in the payoff. Who profits from the use of the ‘N’ word?

Since the African American community has rejected the use of the ‘N’ word for all the negative concerns it creates, why would some African Americans continue to use the word if not for profit? One might consider the use for shock value or just plain ignorance of history and no sense of self worth. When did the African American community give their power to entertainers to decide who can use the ‘N’ word or not? If the word is reprehensive and pejorative to the African American community, why would it not be so, in general, to everyone? Also, why would anyone want to promote bigotry by using the ‘N’ word even as entertainment? The fact of the matter is that the word is unacceptable for use in society under any circumstances. Those who use the ‘N’ word know that it is unacceptable in its usual form, so they change its appearance through spelling or some other construction. Regardless of its appearance, its history is still present.

Many of the arguments offered by proponents of African Americans using the ‘N’ word, lack solid evidence of it losing its sting. Some have said that the word is part of the culture and that it is okay to use it among those in the community. How can that be true when the community has rejected it? Certainly the use of the ‘N’ word was common within the African American community from slavery up to and including some segments today. The early use came primarily from being forced to accept the word as a form of identity—it was a part of the slave culture. African and African Americans knew the word was derogatory, but were powerless to change it. Another use of the word came from ignorance experienced through slavery. However, even the African Americans who used the word before it was rejected by the national community realized the pejorative nature of the word, so they reserved it for people they wanted to insult.

So, the ‘N’ word is not acceptable under any circumstances with the exception of how it was used in literature of the past. The use of the ‘N’ word in literature marked a clear indication of the mindset of the individual and his or her society in the work. The use of it today marks a clear indication of bigotry, stupidity or arrogance. Those who persist in saying that the ‘N’ word is part of free speech and they have to right to say it, must remember one cannot have it both ways…either the word is unacceptable or it is not. Society has said that it is not.

If someone calls you a dawg, what does that say about your mother, brother, sister or you?

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