Tag Archives: Racism

The conscience of an American

Birmingham_fire_hoses_1963When I was 14, my friends and I were playing at Richard’s tenement apartment in the South Bronx, and Richard’s Mom asked quietly if I would leave and get my friends to go as well.

I must have looked puzzled when I said I would because Richard’s Mom said in a whisper, “You can come back later but don’t bring Stevie.”

Stevie was black.  He was one of my friends.

It was my first encounter with racism.

This is how an individual conscience awakens to bigotry.

In the neighborhood, among us kids, we were from lower middle class families, nobody had gone past High School, not the parents, nor the kids, we were a mixed lot of Irish, Italian, Jewish, Black and Puerto Rican boys mostly.

We played stickball, sewer to sewer, hand ball, swung from the hanging ladders off the fire ‘scapes at street level, ran up and down alleys, through basements and court yards.

We were friends with unnoticed differences, who talked trash, had fist fights, but got along.

Senator Patrick Moynihan might have considered us a species of his “melting pot” but we were hardly homogenous.  We celebrated our differences while remaining companionable.

There’s a lyric in the musical, South Pacific, that “You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear.”  We neither did hate nor fear. Continue reading

Land of the free? About our national anthem!

Flag_wavingOn Friday night, my wife Holly and I took out the Iron Horse (little Harley) and had dinner at Anthony’s in Purcellville.

A Starbuck’s friend at the next table over asked what I thought about the quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, with the San Francisco 49ers, who wouldn’t stand during the national anthem.

I said I had no problem with his protest.  And I don’t.

I think there is good cause because of our poor race relations that we promote discussion about race and equality – so that we might thereby achieve the equal rights for all Americans, male and female, and fulfill the promise of equality that has eluded this nation’s grasp since we declared our independence.

Blacks failed to become full “persons” in our much revered Constitution at the birth of our nation; they were recognized as fractional three-fifths “persons” for purposes of allocating political representation among the several states, but not allowed the vote.

Still, we have folk insisting on the “original” meaning of the constitution, what our founders “believed.”

What our founders “believed” was that it was necessary to compromise individual rights to ameliorate regional differences.

In 2011, there was some congressional embarrassment when our U.S. Congress thought to read the Constitution on the floor of the House so that we could focus on our nation’s “original” meaning.

The “reading” deleted certain “original” passages from the Constitution including the language in Article I, Section 2, that references slaves as “three fifths” persons.

Many are beside themselves that anyone would protest the Anthem?  But we should examine the context and content of the Anthem.  I have never done so, not from the perspective of being black, or having had ancestors who were slaves.  When you do, you can’t ignore that our Anthem contains these words, “No refuge could save the hireling and slave, from the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave.”

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A King who cared for labor

Labor marching to honor Martin Luther King in 2015 (photo by JPF)

Labor marching to honor Martin Luther King in 2015 (photo by JPF)

The Reverend Martin Luther King compared himself to Moses who led his people out of slavery, saw the Promised Land, but never got there himself.

In April of 1968, Martin Luther King was in Memphis, Tennessee supporting a garbage workers’ strike. Dr. King cared about workers.

On the evening of April 3rd, Dr. King told the congregation, “I don’t know what will happen now.” He said he’d “been to the mountain top” and “seen the Promised Land” but “I may not get there with you.”

His promise, however, was that “we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.”

Toward evening, that next day, April 4th, King stepped out on the balcony of the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee.

A rifleman shot a .30-06 caliber bullet that broke Dr. King’s jaw, cut through his neck and spinal cord, and the slug lay spent in his shoulder blade. King died.

Robert Kennedy said in Indianapolis to a crowd that had not yet heard of King’s death that we must “tame the savageness of man and to make gentle the life of this world.”

We have an annual March in Loudoun County to honor Martin Luther King. Savageness, however, still abides in the body politic. Continue reading

Tywanza!

tywanza“You don’t have to do this,” said Tywanza Sanders, 26.

That’s what Tywanza said in a Charleston, South Carolina Church.

A 21-year-old man, Dylann Roof, holding a gun, didn’t believe that.

Looking at Tywanza, a black man, standing before him in a church at a Bible study meeting, Dylann said, it was a “fact” that “black men are raping our women and taking over the country.”

The rich residue of bigotry and violence, accumulated over the history of our young country, makes for a deathly brew.

It began with rivulets, formed into rivers, a soulless flood, coursing through our nation’s veins, its institutions, and the minds and hearts of America.

Early vestiges of its source occurred when founding fathers failed to condemn slavery in our Declaration of Independence.

When we wrote our Constitution, we embraced slavery, making men chattels and partial persons.

Even now when discrimination is outlawed, it is still widely practiced, with a wink and a nod, and finds ease and comfort in the oleaginous political rhetoric of our most unworthy leaders. Continue reading

Justice left behind

Judge Jerry Baxter

Judge Jerry Baxter

There is a case out of Atlanta, prosecuting and sentencing educators like they were made members of a mob syndicate for changing test results to make their schools and students look better so the authorities wouldn’t close the schools or the teachers or educators lose their jobs.

The State Judge, Fulton County Superior Court Judge, Jerry Baxter, handed out twenty-year sentences that real mobsters and murderers don’t get, nor do corrupt bankers, insider traders, or self-dealing politicians.

So what does this recent injustice have to do with anyone outside of Atlanta?

It’s about the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002, why it’s not working, and how, in the bargain, Justice got left behind.

David Berliner, a former dean at the School of Ed at Arizona State University, quoted in a recent New Yorker, said that educators were asked to compensate for factors outside their control: “The people who say poverty is no excuse for low performance are now using teacher accountability as an excuse for doing nothing about poverty.”

Some have observed that these educators would normally be considered first time white collar offenders – if they weren’t black.  I believe it is more about defending a corrupt system that doesn’t work, and making these educators the scape goats, so we’ll lose sight of what’s really wrong here – the failed and failing educational construct.

The Atlanta prosecutors said that the children were cheated of an education, by having their scores changed, so the educators could get raises.

Really?  How do you feed instruction to a food hungry student, compensate for a disrupted family or the lack of community roots, in neighborhoods where violence is everywhere and suffered up close and personal?

These educators were fighting against a system that allowed for no excuses if the test scores faltered, including the practice of having students and educators of poorly performing schools seated in the bleachers at games, humiliating and punishing schools and students, rather than helping, and so, teachers were let go, students were sent out of their neighborhoods to other schools, and, the worst, schools were taken over or closed.

Test erasures had become more obvious, year to year, and this is true across the nation.  An investigation of the Atlanta system uncovered 44 schools cheated, and 200 educators.  35 educators were indicted, cuffed, and pictured in perp walks, like they were the Mob’s “Teflon Don,” John Gotti. Continue reading

Equal Justice? Not Yet!

UVA Student, Martese Johnson, beaten

UVA Student, Martese Johnson, beaten

We beat up a black student in Virginia – an honor student.

We hung a black man in Mississippi – his feet floating 2-3 feet off the ground.

And we’ve got a local Leesburg councilman from Loudoun County who doesn’t see the point of a diversity commission because Jesus freed the slaves and Jesus would have told us to create such a diversity commission if we really needed one.  (Listen to what he said - https://youtu.be/Texh0_bjvLk )

Well we need more than a commission in America – and a lot smarter thinking public officials than our local councilman.

Sure, it rubs some people wrong to say “we” – you and I – beat up or hung someone.  But our society’s sins of omission make us all responsible for these vile acts in Virginia and Mississippi and in Staten Island in New York and elsewhere, symptomatic of this nation’s historically “uneasy” association with slavery and discrimination, re-emerging more visibly and offensively in recent days.

The failure to act makes us all accomplices after the fact.  John Donne once wrote, “No man is an island, entire of itself” because we are “involved in mankind.”  Another way to put it is – a bad man is a good man’s problem – and we have our work cut out for us these days. Continue reading

Racism rears head in mayoral run

I’m reprinting an op-ed from the Cleveland Jewish News titled Racism rears head in mayoral run because the pattern of fear-mongering, hate and corruption is all too familiar. We have allies fighting the same battles all over the world. Bravo to Cliff Savern for the brave post. It isn’t easy for Jews to stick up for Arabs in Israel.

Posted: Thursday, August 15, 2013 10:00 am

BY CLIFF SAVREN |

RA’ANANA, Israel – Israel defines itself as both a Jewish and democratic state. One of the most interesting aspects of this is how the country resolves potential conflicts between the two. I think it’s fair to say that overwhelmingly, the legal system resolves them in favor of democracy, but one public official, Shimon Gapso, is advocating a swing in the other direction in his ugly campaign for re-election as mayor of Upper Nazareth. Continue reading

The Promised Land

 

Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Reverend Martin Luther King compared himself to Moses who led his people out of slavery, saw the Promised Land, but never got there himself.

In April of 1968, Martin Luther King was in Memphis, Tennessee supporting a garbage workers’ strike.

On the evening of April 3rd, King told the congregation, “I don’t know what will happen now.”  He said he’d “been to the mountain top”   and “seen the Promised Land” but “I may not get there with you.”

His promise, however, was that “we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.”

Toward evening, that next day, April 4th, King stepped out on the balcony of the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee.

A rifleman shot a .30-06 caliber bullet that broke Dr. King’s jaw, cut through his neck and spinal cord, and the slug lay spent in his shoulder blade.  King died.

Robert Kennedy said in Indianapolis to a crowd that had not yet heard of King’s death that we must “tame the savageness of man and to make gentle the life of this world.”

King couldn’t have agreed more and his prescription to reach the Promised Land was to challenge “the triple evils of racism, economic exploitation, and militarism.”

We know today that the Supreme Court decision in Dred Scott, deciding that a man was property, was wrong.

But we don’t’ seem to appreciate that a Supreme Court that compromises voting rights is also wrong. Continue reading

What a surprise, religious liberty is alive and well

Have you all noticed that there is very little complaining on the anti-gay fringe about the ongoing avalanche of changes to public policy in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling on DOMA? The Department of Defense now extends full military benefits to same sex spouses, the Department of State is issuing immigrant visas to same sex spouses, and a multitude of other federal benefits of marriage will now be enjoyed by LGBT families previously denied them. But the anti-gay fringe is largely silent about these events that are actually happening, preferring to talk instead about a hypothetical event that is not only not happening, but is impossible due to our First Amendment protections. What they are talking about – and talking about incessantly in that hysterical, strident tone they favor – is the impending loss of religious liberty for churches “forced to perform homosexual weddings.” Really. It’s bound to happen any day now.

Fear not, fearful mongers of fear: Churches can (still!) refuse to marry any couple, for any reason. The First Baptist Church of Crystal Springs in Mississippi, for instance, just told an African American couple that they would have to be married in a different church, because, according to the pastor, “This was, had not, had never been done here before so it was setting a new (precedent) and there were those who reacted to that.

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Why we talk about “reality-based world”

Stupid is as stupid does – as Ta-Nehisi Coates lays bare in this withering response to a recycled apologia for racism appearing in the National Review.

His main point: Advising the assumption of criminality for all young black men one encounters fails not only because it is morally bankrupt, but because it is factually false. If the purpose of the advice is “safety,” it is not and cannot be effective. “That is not surprising,” explains Coates with great restraint, “given that this is the kind of advice which betrays a greater interest in maintaining one’s worldview than in maintaining one’s safety.”

The problem is the same with this world view as it is with the one that encourages parents to rely on filtering software to control what their children see on the internet. The problem is the same with the world view that insists “abstinence-only” sexuality education is the solution to teen pregnancy and STIs, and the one that believes LGBT people will disappear if only we can be denied equality, dignity and safety. Setting aside the obvious moral problems, they are wrong because they don’t work. None of these approaches can do the things they purport to do, because none of them have a basis in reality.

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