Run Race Problems

soapboxpileWe don’t have a Race problem in the United States of America, how many times have you heard this? How many times has someone you know said this to you when you have attempted to have a conversation about Race with them? How many members of the media, paid to inform and even define the cultural standards of the day insisted, we do not have a Race problem in the United States of America, those days are over.

I am here to tell you, I agree with all of them. We do not have a Race problem in the United States of America. We have something entirely different. What we have is this.

We have a CULTURE of RACISM.

Institutionalized and culturally accepted. We have a culture that not only tacitly agrees, but one that has been built on the enslavement of an entire people, yet refuses to acknowledge its history. We have an entire nation, whether ‘Left’ or ‘Right’, whether wringing their hands and cringing at the use of the ‘N-word’ or blatantly calling our President a ‘Nigger’, who frankly will not admit our roots our deeply sunk in slavery and Jim Crow, we would rather white wash the entire thing pretending it simply never happened. Worse, those roots of disenfranchisement, poverty and hate are part of who we are and I think we must love them because we refuse to look our history squarely in the eye, acknowledge it, apologize for it and fix the inevitable outcomes of it.

Fix it, what am I saying? Fix it, not only do we not want to fix it we are actively working to undo any small advances we might have made in the past sixty years. Shall we look, just take a small peek at what has happened since 1954.

  • 1954 – Brown vs. The Topeka Board of Education, integrates public schools
  • 1964 – Civil Rights Act
  • 1965 – Voting Rights Act
  • 1967 – Loving vs. The State of Virginia
  • 1991 – Civil Rights Bill, a setback for all minority groups in their ability to seek remedy in court
  • 2007 – Parents Involved in Community Schools vs. Seattle Schools District No. 1 and Meredith vs. Jefferson Co. Board of Education, these two begin to unravel fundamental principles of Brown
  • 2013 – Voting Rights Act, significant portions invalidated by SCOTUS leaving open the ability of States to enact draconian Voter ID laws and redistricting, which has now been on-going and in many cases successfully implemented leading up to this years mid-term elections

Since the election of this President, yes the Black Man in the White House, Barack Hussein Obama this nation has lost its presence of mind. People who once at least tried to pretend they were on the right side of history no longer even pretend. The Right has moved so far to the right they make no attempt to curb their lunatics or shut down their fringe, in truth their fringe are welcomed to the fold with open arms. Don’t misunderstand me, President Obama didn’t cause people to suddenly become bigots or racists, no this isn’t the case at all. What the election of President Barack Hussein Obama did is scare the holy hell out of the White Man who for so long had been in power without having to share or feel at all threatened. The election of this President shook the White Man to the core of their very being and they have come out swinging, determined to hang on by whatever means necessary.

With fists, with guns, with draconian voting laws, with redistricting, Confederate flags in front of the White House, with a do-nothing Congress. The list goes on and on. With marches on the White House and calls for impeachment by members of various groups who lampoon this President in guises taken directly from minstrel shows of the nineteenth century and we do nothing, we say nothing. We stand by and complain while these ignorant buffoons are insulting both the office and the man, but in honesty, we do nothing, what the hell are we afraid of losing our own privilege?

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Type ‘Hate Nigger’ in Google search, you will get 295,000 site hits in .4 seconds. None of these will be hits decrying the use of the word, or the history of the word in our Lexicon which I have provided in the footnotes if you are interested. No, they will all be sites specifically focused on exactly what it sounds like, 295,000 hits. Some are duplicates I would suspect, I didn’t do anything more than look at how many I would get. Type in ‘White Power’, you will get 1,630,000 hits in .55 seconds, admittedly some are the standard Wikipedia, but those are just the first two or three, the rest are sites for real live groups promoting ‘White / Aryan Nation’ bullshit.

What got me fired up today? This got me cranked over:

Now admittedly, this is the tip of the iceberg. This is one old man in Mississippi, likely hanging on by a thin thread to his brought-upsie and his moonshine. The problem I have is this, he isn’t alone and he doesn’t represent himself. He represents a host of others, he is an elected and seated judge. He said aloud what others think but are too afraid to say. He and his kind are why we continue to have a CULTURE of RACISM and why we do indeed have a very real problem in this nation.

Let’s take a look at some other recent examples:

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The list just goes on and on until my head spins and my skin burns. No, they must all be correct in their assessment, we surely do not have a Race Problem in these United States of America. What we have is a problem with those who would hold onto power by any means necessary. What we have is a failure to address history, acknowledge we built this nation on the backs and shoulders and through the sweat, blood and labor of those we murdered and enslaved. What we have is a nation seeped in blood, stolen from those who were here first and from those who labored for nothing to build it. What we have is a blood price owed and a failure to even admit it is far past due.

Poverty Rates

Frankly, I do not give a damn if you are personally a bigot. I don’t care if you hate every single person who doesn’t look like you. It matters not a whit to me if you are afraid, it is your problem deal with it. It is though long past time this nation stop putting Silly Putty over the wounds of hundreds of years, time to stop targeting those this nation has disenfranchised and shut out of full citizenship since the day the first slave ship landed on these shores.

We don’t have a Race Problem, we are the problem, every last one of us who turn away and allow these Neanderthals to continue to reside among us in positions of power and authority. We have a Culture of Racism so deeply embedded we are comfortable pretending it doesn’t exist. We are comfortable saying, “I am not a Racist, I am not a Bigot, I can’t do anything about the rest of it”.

I don’t know, I don’t think that is the answer anymore. I don’t know what the answer is, truly I don’t. I do know this country better get off its moral high ground and quickly. I do know, we are a failing nation and this is one of the greatest failures of all.


 

A brief history of the word Nigger: http://www.aaregistry.org/historic_events/view/nigger-word-brief-history

Atlas Left Report on Judge: http://atlasleft.org/mississippi-judge-called-out-for-slapping-disabled-man-and-yelling-run-ngger-run-video/

The Atlantic, The Case for Reparations, Ta Nehisi: http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2014/05/the-case-for-reparations/361631/#ii-a-difference-of-kind-not-degree

Introduction and additional information for the fabulous Ta Nehisi article in The Atlantic: http://theobamacrat.com/2014/05/24/the-case-for-reparations-by-ta-nehisi-coates/

FoxNews is a blatant source driving the ongoing race baiting since the election of the current President, rather than me attempting to show the proof, News Corpse is a great on-going source: http://www.newscorpse.com/ncWP/?cat=417

The Inequality Report 2014: http://www.stanford.edu/group/scspi/sotu/SOTU_2014_CPI.pdf

*Not true to FBI statistics, 49.3 percent of murders were committed by whites vs. 48.7 by blacks in 2010. Whites are more likely to commit violent crimes. Crime is an issue in black communities in several major cities across the nation. Nevertheless, white criminals aren’t viewed as America’s problem, although more whites commit crimes than blacks.

It Starts With Me

LVal_2010When I look in the mirror, I don’t see Privilege. I do not think to myself, well today when I go to the store I will be treated well, store security will not follow me, the lady at checkout will not demand two pieces of identification if I write a check. I don’t think the police will likely let me go with a warning if I drive a few miles over the speed limit; no one will follow me if I am somewhere, in some neighborhood I have never been before looking at houses.

When I roll out of bed and consider my day, I don’t think to myself, “Damn, I am so lucky I was born White.”

Do you, or if like me your skin is White and your heritage is mixed bag of European American you simply take for granted the beginning of another day and never consider what it means to be fundamentally, you as in your racial identity.

When I look in the mirror, I see crow’s feet and think, “Shit they are getting longer and deeper”.

When I look in the mirror, I see the reverse skunk stripe down my part and think, “Dang, time for another touch up”.

I do not however ever see my racial identity in stark terms. I don’t see it and wonder how it might affect my life today.

What I don’t do is wonder what I should wear to the local market, it doesn’t matter what I wear, they will still treat me as if I matter. Even if I don’t do anything more than sort of comb my hair or just run water through it and hope for the best, throw on yoga pants and a tee shirt. Not one person in that store would ever think to wonder just what the hell I was doing there, I belong; my skin tone gives me the right, the privilege of belonging.

Never thought about how I was lucky, fortunate in comparison simply based on my much paler skin. What I considered were those things I could not change about myself that made my life more difficult;

  • I was born a woman.
  • I am getting older.
  • I had been divorced and financially ruined in that divorce.
  • I had been hurt and left with disabilities.

These things, some which are simply characteristic to my birth and others, which are part of life, affect my ability to find work and sometimes advance, stay productive, earn a living, prepare for my retirement and be financially stable.

They are frankly first world problems. They do not prevent me from moving in the world in meaningful ways. They do not cause others to look at me with suspicion simply for walking into a store or in the neighborhood. In fact some of my problems are invisible, some of my problems because of the color of my skin are more easily overcome than they would be otherwise.

Do I compartmentalize my own experiences? View the world based on my own expectations of a world that is better than it is. My husband has told me I do this that I frequently do not see “ugly” behavior for what it is; I do not put the behavior in its proper perspective. I have had to wonder about this lately, question my own ability to truly “see”.

One True Story

When my parents were alive they lived in a small town in the Hill Country of Texas, we visited often, to eat, drink and play golf. My parents lived on the golf course and frequented the clubhouse for lunch. There are very few Black people in this community. We never thought about this, never considered it an issue; it never occurred to us that anyone would treat a member of our family badly.087

We sat down and perused the menu (written on the chalkboard), we were all chatting and laughing together. My brothers, father and ex-husband had just finished a rousing game of golf and DB had beaten their pants off. The men were bad talking each other and we women were rolling our eyes and hoping they would stop, soon please. DB and I were only recently married and had not been to the new house together, but my father and mother were well known to the staff. When the waitress came over to the take our order, she went around the table joking with members of the family, taking orders as my father proudly introduced those she hadn’t met before. When she got to DB and me, she skipped over him, her eyes slid off him as if he didn’t exist though she had taken my order and he was sitting right next to me she pretended not to see him. It was astounding. My father reminded her she had missed his order and proceeded to proudly introduce my husband.

I realize now my father saw what DB saw and I am humiliated by my insensitivity. My husband was mortified and hurt by the encounter and refused to eat there ever again. He told me why and I understood it, I simply did not “see” it until he told me.

The arrest of Miss Rosa Parks - Historical Context

The arrest of Miss Rosa Parks – Historical Context

We that is all of us, in our intransigence regarding race relations in the United States today are the problem. Our refusal to see the problem, our refusal to discuss the problem in real terms, our refusal to ‘allow’ historical context to those that racial bias most affects; we are the problem. Whether we ourselves are unambiguous in our pathological bigotry or we are vague and shroud our intent in a labyrinth of policy and statistics, we remain the problem. Even if we believe we have not a shred of bias, bigotry or racism in our hearts, we are the problem if we refuse to see the truth of this nation and its very real problems with race relations today in 2013.

Discussions of Race and its Historical Context by the President of the United States is not divisive. This President is a Black Man in this United States. In spite of his Bi-Racial make-up he is seen as only one thing on the street, that is Black Man. When he was growing up he was seen as a Black Boy, a Black Teenager. When he ran for office he was hated or loved for his Blackness in many cases. His words on July 19, 2013, were not divisive they were contextual and personal. Yet before he was done those who refuse to see, refuse to hear and refuse to accept Historical Context and Racism as Reality in 2013 went after his comments as if he were the problem. He isn’t.

We are the problem. We are the problem on individual levels when we refuse to examine and correct our own responses and reactions. We are the problem when we refuse to engage in necessary discussions. We are the problem when we don’t speak up, when we don’t get involved when we see inequity happening right in front of us. We are the problem when we don’t stand up and refuse the status quo. We may not be able to change the hearts of men (or women), we can certainly change the outcome of how their words and our own affect our society.

It starts with us as individuals. It starts with me. It starts with you.

In Peril

Courtesty of News National Post.com

Courtesty of News National Post.com

What in the hell went wrong?

How did this happen? Why did this happen? How did an admitted killer walk out of the courtroom a free man?

I am not going to attempt to dissect the trial, the minds of the prosecution or the jurors. There are others far smarter than I who can take on this exercise, I am sure they will.

On March 31 of last year, I wrote this Trayvon and Me, his murder came on the heels of the anniversary of my assault and I was compelled to compare the two events. Last year, one of my offenders was Released as an Inmate after serving his entire twenty year sentence, the other two were released to parole after serving twenty years of their thirty-five year sentences. Yesterday I received from Texas Victim Services notification the second of the two has been violated and will be returned to prison to serve the remainder of his sentence. This means both will now be back in prison after less than 6 months of freedom.

I found myself sitting on the stairs reading that letter my mind returning to a justice system that does not seem to serve justice equally. While my fury ran red hot at their release to parole, I cannot help how I feel as a victim, I find I see beyond my victim status in light of current events and weep for lives wasted. Young lives wasted by society’s inattention, by poverty, by misery, by bigotry, institutionalized racism; by a Drug War focused on those who could not fight back one that irrevocably broke families and communities. Lives devastated by thirty years of economic destruction of the hope, opportunity and finally of the middle class.

I wrote about their original release to parole here and here.

I haven’t always had a compassionate heart; yesterday I found my heart had less fury and more empathy more compassion.

With all this being said, the more vital topic remains how will the killing of Trayvon Martin and the “Not Guilty” verdict of George Zimmerman change the national conversation?

  • Should we be talking about Stand Your Ground? Eric Holder said it best in his recent Keynote speech to the NAACP when he noted SYG fixed a problem that did not exist and talked about the conversation he felt compelled to have with his own 15-year-old son.

  • Should we be talking about guns, conceal carry and how NRA and ALEC have pushed an agenda, one that is dangerous to all of us but most especially to Black and Brown young men.
  • Should we be talking about Racism and Bigotry in this nation? I believe we must have these discussions. We must stop hiding our head in the sand, stop saying, “I cannot be a bigot I have a Black / Brown / White friend”. The truth, racism is making a strong comeback and as a nation, we are showing our true colors. We might not like it, in fact might hate talking about it but the results of the 2012 AP Poll cannot be ignored. I have not included the comparisons from 2008, in all cases the increase averages 3%.2
Image youlikes

Explicit Anti-Black

Implicit Anti-Black

2012

2012

All Americans 51%

56%

Republicans 79%

64%

Democrats 32%

55%

What does this mean? First, it means despite opinions to the contrary it is not getting better in the land of the free and the home of the brave. It means, despite having elected our first Black President, bias and bigotry runs deep in America and those who held power for over two hundred years, are truly not prepared to share it, not prepared to see it slip through their hands. It also means, despite all of our good intentions, many of us still cross to the other side of the road without intending too, we still unintentionally profile and thus we perpetuate stereotyping and allow racism to continue as both an emotional response to our fellow citizens and an institution.

I responded to a question the other day on Facebook: “Why does the media refer to President Obama as Black when in fact he is bi-racial”.

Ann Dunham and a young Barack Obama

Ann Dunham and a young Barack Obama

My response, it is history and tradition, the history of our nation going back to Emancipation, Reconstruction, The One Drop Rule and Racial Integrity Laws. The person I responded too and many others did not like my response, in fact, they ripped into me calling me names (many of them true) and attempting to debate my premise. They could not; it always helps to know history. This unfriendly discussion though led me to understand how poisonous some are in their anger, to deny a history that is less than 50 years past. I was stunned by the virulence of some of the responses and finally left the discussion in dismay.

What in the hell do we do?

I don’t have an answer; I don’t think any of us do. I know this; young men in communities across this nation are dying every single day. Most of them are Black or Brown, their mothers weep beside their graves. It is unnatural to bury a child. With the expansion of the Castle Doctrine, many feel a target has been placed directly on their sons, directly on their husbands, directly on their fathers, directly on any male that isn’t White or at least can pass. I am not sure I don’t disagree with this assessment of what SYG really means, I am not sure I don’t disagree that it isn’t simply a license to commit murder.

ALECNRA

I also know this; we must begin to talk about what ails this nation. We must pull our heads out of the sand and out of our own proverbial asses, if we don’t we fail. We fail our children we fail ourselves and we fail the future. We must change the laws that encourage vigilante justice and while SCOTUS has told the police they may not profile based on Race, any citizen may do so with impunity and then shoot to kill because the streets are now his castle and he has no duty to retreat. We must change what ails us. We must remove the targets from the bodies of our young Black and Brown children, from our husbands, our fathers and all others in our lives.

We must begin to heal this nation.

I leave you with this beautiful song, that I dedicate to all the young men who leave the house each day with the potential someone will find them threatening and do them grave harm.

2012: http://surveys.ap.org/data/GfK/AP_Racial_Attitudes_Topline_09182012.pdf2

2008: http://surveys.ap.org/data/KnowledgeNetworks/AP_Election_Wave6_Topline_W6%20ALL%20weight5_091808.pdf2

Additional Reading:

The Defense of George Zimmerman https://lizboltzranfeld.wordpress.com/2013/07/16/the-defense-of-george-zimmerman/

Race 2012: The Commons

What are the Commons and why are they important to civil society? We don’t speak of our public sector too often as The Commons anymore so many citizens don’t understand the term or what is included or why The Commons are such a vital part of our society. One of the keys to understanding The Commons, is first understanding the framework of our nation, the Constitution and its key structures, this is seen first in the Preamble;

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

And then next in Article 1, Section 8:

The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

With this in mind, what are The Commons? I suspect if I asked ten people I would get very different answers, these would be tinged by their political leanings, their understanding of history maybe even their age. We have forgotten though, truly failed in our memory in the past forty some odd years the meaning of the gift of The Commons we give to ourselves. We have failed to preserve the community that is The Commons and failed to

Boston Common, 1848

preserve the meaning of nation that is also The Commons. In this forgetting, we fail both what is the illustriousness of our past and sustainability of our future.

What are The Commons? These are what I think and in many cases what our Founders thought and earlier, greater presidents thought.

  1. National Parks, I do believe the preservation of great swaths of our nation is indeed vital to our heritage in our future. Some of these wonders of the our nation house also wonders of the world, worth our care for our children and their children; Theodore Roosevelt
  2. Food & Drug Administration, indeed I want the food I eat to be safe. I want there to be standards for cleanliness, packaging, distribution and telling me what any food product contains. I want these standards to be across the board and not-for-profit. I also want them to be up on the latest scientific knowledge not years behind! Similarly, I want pharmaceutical companies to have to follow tight guidelines when putting new drugs on the market, I don’t want them to be able to put just anything on the shelf with a warning label so long and in such small print even my glasses can’t help read it; Theodore Roosevelt
  3. Social Security, oh yeah I know it’s an ENTITLEMENT. No, no it is not unless you are thinking of an Entitlement as something you or I have paid into for our entire working lives and are now ENTITLED to collect in our retirement. Should we consider some reforms? Yes, we should but those reforms should not include anything even faintly smelling of privatization, this is part of The Commons, something we gift ourselves with to make our own and our fellow citizens lives better for: Franklin D. Roosevelt
  4. Roads, Interstate Highways, these are important not just for our driving pleasure but as a means of moving goods across the country. The Interstate Highway system not only provided a massive works program, it connects us to this day despite its terrible disrepair; Dwight Eisenhower
  5. Endowment of the Arts, no nation can call itself civilized that does not support the arts, that does not provide for theater, museums, music, writers to flourish. History tells us no civilization has ever flourished without art; Lyndon Johnson
  6. Medicare / Medicaid, one of the most despised but necessary of The Commons, especially needful for our aged and our young where the programs are most focused; Lyndon Johnson
  7. Environment Protection Agency, there was a time we held a first Earth Day. Many understood with rivers on fire, children dying of strange cancers and city skies black with smoke we had to do something to change our direction, to take care of our world. We didn’t call it Climate Change back then, we simply called it pollution and despaired; Richard Nixon
  8. FEMA, recognizing the need for federal intervention and support where Blood Drives, volunteers and the local first responders could not cover all the needs this agency was created and funded; Jimmy Carter

These are just a few that have recently been in the news mostly because they have been under fire. There are those who believe they should either be privatized or simply eliminated entirely. Here are some others though,

Privacy Wall

some you may not have considered;

  1. Privatization of Local, State and Federal Jails and Prisons:
    1. This is already underway in many states, the privatization of the prison system leads to fraud. Private systems will only build or take over systems with a guarantee of 90% occupancy rate. The Drug War and the crackdown on Illegal Immigration has been a boon for the private prison profit margins.
  2. Privatization of Voting Machines:
    1. This one is frightening but the states buy their voting machines from private industry. They are programed in closed source, the states cannot service them and do not understand the operating system or the programming that counts YOUR vote. There are no random spot checks, there is no validation there is no Transparency and SCOTUS determined in 2000 in Bush v. Gore, “The individual citizen has no federal constitutional right to vote”.
  3. Privatization of Education:
    1. Public education and schools have been a cornerstone of our Commons since 1647 when the Puritans established the first schools, albeit these were primarily for the teaching of Puritan values and the reading of the Bible. Beginning in 1785 the first land grant schools (University) were being established, open to all. In 1790 public education was being offered to all families who could not afford to send their children to private schools in Pennsylvania. By 1820, public education was the standard in all US cities and in 1851 Massachusetts is the first state to make education mandatory.
  4. Privatization of City Water Utilities / Supplies:
    1. It has been predicted by 2025 Water will be the new oil, with shortfalls worldwide. With this in mind it shouldn’t be a surprise the private sector is looking to privatize city water utilities. What does this mean to you or I? This would depend on where we live and how much we can afford to pay for our water I would suppose. My recommendation would be if your city is planning to privatize plan on rate hikes, degraded water quality and parts of your city with little to no service as infrastructure also degrades through ‘structural adjustment’.

Those are just a few, there are many more. The one thing the first list shared, there was a benefit to all citizens with their implementation, no person was left out. The one thing the second list shares, those who are already living in poverty, already struggling just to get by are far and away more harmed by their implementation. Is this a race issue? Only so far as today poverty and race remains closely linked in many areas of the nation. To ignore this is to turn a blind eye on facts. We cannot ignore where benefits are gained and who is harmed by any action or by our failure to act.

Tomorrow is our last day to vote in this election cycle. Tomorrow some will stand in very long lines and hopefully say NO to the dreams and hopes of the PRIVATIZATION crowd. Tomorrow perhaps, if enough people say no,

Florida, Saturday lining up to vote

we can begin to heal some of the wounds this election season has opened and begin what I think will be a slog through the muck toward a more civilized social dialog about how to fix what is broken. Tomorrow we elect our next President, several Senators and House members; all I can say I hope it is President Obama and enough new members in both houses of Congress to break the log jam of the past four years.

What is The Commons? It is the gift we give to ourselves to maintain a civilized society. I personally like paying taxes for the benefit of a civilized society that includes good roads, great art and a government that actually functions properly.

I leave you with this thought, voter suppression and repression isn’t this years fancy it was a long time in the making, listen to what Paul Weyrich said in 1980. Don’t know who he is? Mr. Weyrich is the founder of the Heritage Foundation, Alec and several other far right organizations.

Race 2012, Rewrite

I regret that I am now to die in the belief that the useless sacrifice of themselves, by the generation of 1776, to acquire self-government and happiness to their country, is to be thrown away by the unwise and unworthy passions of their sons, and that my only consolation is to be that I live not to weep over it. If they would but dispassionately weigh the blessings they will throw away, against an abstract principle more likely to be effected by union than by scission, they would pause before they would perpetrate this act of suicide on themselves and of treason against the hopes of the world. To yourself, as the faithful advocate of the Union, I tender the offering of my high esteem and respect.

The Fire Bell in the Night, Monticello April 20, 1820

Thomas Jefferson to John Holmes

Thomas Jefferson, in his letter was talking about the Missouri Compromise that allowed entry of a new state into the Union as a Slave State, something Jefferson was vehemently opposed to. In fact as early as 1787 the issue of Slavery was discussed by the nation’s founders as one that would ultimately destroy the new Republic. Though many of the founding fathers were slaveholders, there was a firm belief the nation could not for long support the buying and selling of human chattel and remain on the right side of history.

During the convention, on June 6 James Madison first raised the issue of Slavery, despite being a slave owner himself like many others he abhorred the practice of the slave trade and wanted to see it ended. His first comment during the convention were;

“that we have seen the mere distinction of colour made in the most enlightened period of time, a ground of the most oppressive dominion ever exercised by man over man.”

His feelings were echoed by others, in the end the compromised language of Section 9 is what was agreed to. The fear expressed by many of the signers of the Constitution is Twenty years was a long time for mischief to be gotten up to, they were right of course, slavery spread instead of ending and before those twenty years were up, though importation became illegal in 1808 by then America could well supply its own. What we ended up with was a compromise in Section 9 Article 1 of the Constitution:

The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a Tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person.

Our history of xenophobia; our fear of other has remained a cornerstone of legislative actions though we try to whitewash this.

Dredd Scott
Wikipedia

Slavery is a terrible stain, eventually leading to the Dredd Scott decision, ultimately giving heft to Reconstruction,
Jim Crow and legal Segregation; decades of Separate and Unequal. The framework of Dredd Scott set the standard for other equally
terrible actions by our government and jingoistic acts of our people.

Let us look for a minute at some of the other terrible stains and what they meant;

Ongoing – Decimation of the Native Tribes through broken treaties, acts of aggression, intentional infection, starvation and ongoing poverty.

1882 – Chinese immigration explodes spurred by the California Gold Rush and results in the Chinese Exclusion Act. The Exclusion Act restricts further immigration and prevents those individuals already in the US from becoming Citizens, ever. The Chinese immigrant was so hated this Act remained in place until 1943.

Mochida family awaiting evacuation all tagged to keep them together
Wikipedia

1942 – Japanese Internment of approximately 110,000 United States citizens of Japanese descent. Racial prejudice was the primary fuel of the Japanese Internment, not any real acts of treason, General DeWitt who was in charge of Internment repeatedly told newspapers “A Jap is a Jap”.

1876 – 1965 Jim Crow, is there anything that speaks the heart of this nations underlying racial conscious more than nearly one hundred years of laws designed to strip equality

White Trade Only, Lancaster, Ohio
Wikipedia

from an entire group of citizens? We think of Jim Crow as something that was a southern problem and indeed the south was open in their racial segregation, but nowhere in this nation were we truly free of Jim Crow thinking only the outward symbolism might not have been so blatant.

2001 – Islamic Backlash; the attack of 9/11 has created wave after wave of legislation at state levels banning Sharia Law from our justice system, which has never been a threat. While the attack by a group of Islamic Fundamentalist on 9/11 was both terrible and heartbreaking, like Pearl Harbor it was not conducted by US Citizens. We have chosen, even those elected officials who should be more restrained in their language, instead  to fan the flames of religious and racial hate. Rather than condemning religious and racial intolerance we fall in line behind the Christian minister, burning the Quran on the front lawn of his church and the Congresswoman calling for an investigation of an aide to the Secretary of State because she is a practicing Muslim.

I would like to think these are not pernicious attacks made out of ignorance, I know better. These like every other example are simply more of the same, more vitriol made by ignorant and fearful people trying to keep their piece of the rock safe from ‘other’.

My personal opinion is a nation that can justify the enslavement of a people based entirely on the color of their skin is able to justify any other evil. A nation that sits in church and listens to their minister rail against ‘other’, as this nation continues to do, is capable of any evil. We embrace hate though we don’t recognize it in ourselves. We wrap ourselves in the mantle of self-righteousness and flag pins, point our fingers at the other side and call names, ‘Progressive Scum’, ‘Socialist’ and ‘Feminist’ are my personal favorites.

We allow Ministers of the Word of Christ to fill our airwaves with Hate and Lies, we nod our heads and say ‘Amen Brother’, when they tell us Homosexuals, Muslims and sometimes women are not of the same quality of human being as ‘the rest of us’ and are sometimes even deserving of death. We vote to strip entire groups of our fellow citizens of their civil rights and we smile as we leave the voting booth, convinced we have done the right thing, we are on the side of God, Mom and Apple Pie.

We now have the book ends, over one hundred fifty years apart of Dredd Scott and Citizen United, one confirmed human beings as property with no rights the other confirmed corporations as people with greater rights than some of our own citizens.

Bookends of the Argument over 150 years apart.

Post Racial America? Please spare me the rhetoric, we aren’t even close. We haven’t embraced the truth of our past as we attempt to rewrite it in more pleasant terms.

“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ Matthew 25:45

Race 2012, Consequential Outcomes

“Smaller Government”

“Less Taxes”

“Government does not create jobs”

“Entitlements”

We hear the above a great deal, from the opposition on the Right. In truth, it is a mantra for their race toward the White House. What does any of the above mean, really?

While the Right is beating the drums of revolution, I sit back and consider what all this means to me as an American and a woman. As I watch the polls slide up and down, back and forth I truly do wonder. We talk a good game on the Left but whether gender, race or otherwise challenged we have failed to band together to form a single coalition against the status quo, instead being satisfied with our individual small wins rather than banding together to win the war.

There is not a single person in the nation today who does not receive benefits from the government. I wonder what are we willing to give up, what services or conveniences would we be willing to do away with for the benefit of less taxes. Today though I am going to ignore this one, except to say there aren’t many, some but not many.

As to whether government creates jobs, of course they do, you are delusional if you believe otherwise. Whether you work directly for a government agency or for a company that sells to the government, the government, federal, state and local is the single largest consumer of goods and services. I am not going to spend time on this one, but consider all the myriad ways in which government monies flow through communities.

There are plenty of ways to shrink the size of government. Let’s start with something simple, grant all members of society equality without equivocation. It is simple; if you are citizen of the United States of America, you are equal to every other citizen. We should not be voting on whether our neighbor is equal to us, whether they have rights equal to our own. This is not an issue that should ever be put forward on a ballot.

The following should be part of a civil and sane society without question or thought. Marriage, call it something else if this makes you happy but call it something else for everyone. Military service, combat duty and access to Officer Training School, let’s make the military reflect our nation at every level not just the enlisted corps. This includes equality of opportunity and pay starting with our schools. Fund them equally in every neighborhood no matter the tax base or average household income. Equality in our choices, healthcare and privacy up to and including access to contraceptives, health screening and yes dammit Abortion.

Remember these words?

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

They spoke to the heart of Revolutionaries who would found a nation. It is once again time for us to embrace the spirit of these words.

Now we finally get to the Hot Button, Entitlements! The monster that will reach out and grab you when you set your feet down on the floor without turning on the light first. What are Entitlements? I have heard all different sorts of answers to this question from the Right and the Left.

Social Security and Medicare – entitlement or claim? I would say Social Security and Medicare are Claims, debts owed by the government to us. Are we entitled to collect? Yes, we paid they are in fact our money we are collecting and though we didn’t agree, we loaned it to the government interest free for a very long time.

Medicaid, Welfare, Unemployment – are these Entitlements? They are part of our social safety net. They are what we long ago agreed would be in place so our citizens would never again face abject poverty without food, shelter or support. Do our citizens, especially our children and our aged deserve our compassion? I would say they do, but then I believe strongly how a nation treats its weakest citizens is a reflection of that nation as a whole.

When the Right Wing talks about ‘reform’ of our Entitlements what are they really saying? What I hear all too often is this:

“They don’t want to work so they are sucking the teat of the public.”

When this is said what do they mean by ‘they’? It is those nefarious ‘others’, those people not like them. The bogeyman or woman that looks different. Those irresponsible ‘other’ people. It is those single parents, usually women who have children with different men (you know who I am talking about). Those un-Christian, immoral, violent ‘other’ people. Let’s just say it shall we, it is those Black and Brown people, those not like White People.

This is the picture of ‘other’ painted by politicians and their support system to divide the heart of this nation. Do they depict the reality? No, no they don’t. What they create is a vision for those that fear they will lose what little traction they have left to latch on to, something  or someone to point at and blame for their failure. This picture of wretchedness, is something ‘other’ those with nothing left but their ‘rightness’ can stand above and feel superior to.

Here is the problem with the above:

Welfare Demographics
Percent of recipients who are white 38.8 %
Percent of recipients who are black 39.8 %
Percent of recipients who are Hispanic 15.7 %
Percent of recipients who are Asian 2.4 %
Percent of recipients who are Other 3.3 %

http://www.statisticbrain.com/welfare-statistics/

When you consider the unemployment numbers within each of these communities :

What does this leave us with? Inequality? I would say so especially when you consider this final number, the population distribution as of the 2010 Census.

What does it all really mean? It means we remain a nation without conscious and without compassion. We have moved further into the mindset of “I got mine, out of my way ya bums get your own.” Rather than holding the door open for those that follow behind us, rather than reaching our hand down to lift the next generation up, we have slammed the door shut and closed our fists. We are standing in the corner, taking a fighters stance ready to defend our small piece of the rock against all comers, against ‘other’.

We are demonizing our neighbors, our friends, our brothers and sisters. We are failing our children.

If we don’t turn our back on the bigotry, greed and avarice soon, we will fall as a nation it is the inevitable outcome of our ignorance. It is the inescapable consequence of our failure to come together for common cause.

Race 2012, What is Race

I received a request to answer the question of “what is race”, directly from Monica who is our fearless leader and coordinator for Race 2012. Then today Totsymae also asked the question along with, “what does it mean to you?” These are difficult subjects especially during these days; we have tried hard in this nation to pretend we don’t have a race problem. Perhaps a better way of saying this, as a nation we have tried to pretend with the election of Barack Obama we no longer have a race problem, obviously we elected a “Black Man as President”.

What is race? Do we have the language, polite or otherwise to answer that question adequately?

I am adopted. I look different from my family; in fact, I was told not infrequently I looked ‘exotic’. Being visually different was my first taste of what it meant to be different, my father said it didn’t matter. It did though. Not because children are discerning or born biased, they aren’t but they are born with an eye for what is dissimilar and an ear to learn what those differences mean, or to fear those differences. Fear translates into hate, humans hate what they fear; humans hate what poses a threat to their survival. Eventually those reactions become visceral if not addressed, thus a new racist is born.

What is race?

It is what defines our differences; these are purely physical characteristics. Without the physical characteristics, the markers of ‘race’ we would be unable to visually identify a person as belonging to specific racial groups unless they self-identified. The truth is race is a social construct that allows us to demonize or aggrandize a group of people based on nothing more or less than their physical characteristics. Humans have used differences, be they cultural, religious or the obvious physical to commit atrocities against each other since the dawn of humankind. We haven’t changed since we first learned to walk upright; we have only gotten more creative in our genocidal tendencies.

What is race?

When we look at our President, we don’t say we elected our first bi-racial President. We don’t acknowledge his Anglo Saxon heritage, indeed, we also forget his Indonesian stepfather; we only see his Blackness and for many White Americans that Blackness infuriates. That fury has broken the barriers of polite discussion of race; it has pulled out all the stops of racial etiquette and public avoidance of accusations of racism. Truthfully, there are

Ann Dunham and a young Barack Obama

those who take great pride in their blatant racism, forgetting our President had a very ‘White’ mother and was raised by very ‘White’ grandparents. Instead, they demand his Birth Certificate, certain this very Black man could not be born in the United States of America. Never has a seated President been treated with such disrespect, during his term in office. But then, never has a President of the United States appeared to be a Black Man.

What is Race? It is part of what we hold up as who we are. It shouldn’t be relevant, but it is. I am first Human, then a woman, then American, then part of an amazing and somewhat dysfunctional family that happens to share the DNA of many different cultures and going back generations.

What is race?

It is nothing more than a way to group and identify those unlike ourselves based on differences that have no real relevance other than our personal notion of beauty. In this nation, what is race? It has become something more, hasn’t it? Race has become an insidious and ugly framework for Class, which is really just another way to say ‘poverty’ and ‘wealth’. Race is a social construct, made up and sustained by those who would hold on to power. It is that, nothing more and nothing less.

Race is a grouping and a tick mark on the Census, the employment application, the TSA checkpoint or the show me your papers police check. It is that, nothing more or less. Race is what we agreed would define us as groups of people so we could pick and choose who would win or lose in society. Race divides our cities creating pockets of destitution, hopelessness and lost opportunity for our children, our future.

We have developed an entire polite language, a racial etiquette for our public discourse. One day soon, we will have to say enough, we will have to begin to hold each other and ourselves accountable and allow ourselves to say

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

what needs to be said without being offended by whose lips say it. We will have to allow talk across the lines of the construct of race, reach through the smog of polite speech and recognize each other for our good intent get our azzes off our shoulders and begin to speak plainly about the problems of Race within the country. We will have to speak across Color, Culture, Religion and Polite Society and across the Racial Etiquette, we have developed if we are to ever fix what is broken and truly achieve the dream that was spoken on the 28-Aug-1963 on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Finally, what does it mean to me?

Mildred and Richard Loving, 1967

It means beyond Loving vs. St. of Virginia my husband and I can go out to dinner anywhere and anytime without some ijit with an attitude giving us the stink eye, failing to provide us with service, or worse offering their opinion of our pairing.

Other times it means I have to revisit the scene of the crime, the day three young Black men kidnapped and shot me simply because they wanted to kill a ‘White Person”, each time they come up for parole I am reminded hate and prejudice runs both ways. Still other days I have to defend my personal position on Racism and Prejudice, why I don’t hate an entire ‘race’ for the act of three individuals. Yes, I am asked this often by both sides and my answer is always the same; I don’t even hate them why would I hate perfect strangers? Or even better, all three of them were teenagers should I hate teenagers? It makes as much sense. Yet even when I explain, most people think I am lying.

What does it mean to me? It means someday, maybe not in my lifetime or even in the lifetime of my children, we will finally destroy the construct of ‘Race’, when enough of us finally stop relying upon it to divide us or define us.

My humanity, gender and experiences define me. My appearance and gender define me only if it limits me by the decisions or perceptions of others. The perception of others as to my race it is just that perception and assumption, I never self-identify.

Race 2012, Platforms & Ideology

This nation has taken on the inequity of education at every level from K through university as part of the on-going debate. The question we have to ask ourselves is it only poverty that drives the inequity or is there something else at work is there a racial undercurrent, still. It is hard to ask the question, hard to look at the year and think back to the days of Civil Rights marches, sit-ins, busing and finally forced school integration and have to ask; have we really not come any further than this?

There are some things we can see in black and white, there is no question there is a lack of parity. What is not so easy to determine is why. It is easy to say this is pure institutional racism, brush our hands together and move on to the next subject. Is that enough, have we solved the riddle? I don’t think we have, the inequity built into our education system has been with us for a very long time, it is the outcome of how we fund and administer our local schools. It is only natural, eventually, as poverty forces people together into communities, schools along with other services would suffer the consequence of economic decline.

It isn’t just poverty that divides us. Unless we cannot absolutely avoid it, we will always seek out communities where we are comfortable. We will always seek out a place to settle where the people look like us and sound like us.

Ruby Bridges, New Orleans 1960

It is natural, we might not even realize we are doing it; it is our own deep-seated fears and underlying prejudice driving us on, informing our choices. We might not be Racist, we might not be a raging flaming outright Bigot but these are very different animals from carrying that seed of fear and that ember of racial bias. We are by nature Xenophobic; we fear what is different from us.

I am not a Racist!

Except where racism is overt, where the neo-Nazis, KKK and others of their ilk march down city streets decked out in well-pressed sheets or Para-military gear, racism hides behind polite social forms. Since the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 there have been changes in what is accepted in our public discourse regarding race we have even found a racial etiquette, at least until recently. This etiquette though, this burying of the Jim Crow era overtness has given way to new resentments and new racial dog-whistles.

  • Government Intervention
  • Welfare
  • Affirmative Action
  • Title I
  • Drug War

What does all this mean when it comes to education? It is an unfortunate truth, the very communities that have been ripped apart by our failed policies and barely concealed bias, have failing schools. We covertly accept some children, within some communities will not thrive and thus set up the circumstances for them to fail while paying lip service to hoped for success.

I am not going to try to hide my disdain today; the following quotes are taken directly from the GOP Platform, you can read all about their thoughts starting on page 35 [2]:

The Republican Party is the party of fresh and innovative ideas in education.

periodic rigorous assessments on the fundamentals, especially math, science, reading, history, and geography; renewed focus on the Constitution and the writings of the Founding Fathers, and an accurate account of American history that celebrates the birth of this great nation;

We renew our call for replacing “family planning” programs for teens with abstinence education which teaches abstinence until marriage as the responsible and respected standard of behavior. Abstinence from sexual activity is the only protection that is 100 percent effective against out-of-wedlock pregnancies and sexually-transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS when transmitted sexually. It is effective, science-based, and empowers teens to achieve optimal health outcomes and avoid risks of sexual activity.

We support keeping federal funds from being used in mandatory or universal mental health, psychiatric, or socio-emotional screening programs.

Republican Governors have led in the effort to reform our country’s under performing education system, and we applaud these advancements.

Now let me just quickly give some examples of what one Republican Governor has done as part of the reform of his under performing system.

  • Removed Thomas Jefferson from history books as part of the Enlightenment. Why you ask? Well because he was a known Deist who coined the phrase “separation of Church and state”; can’t have that coming out of the mouths of one of our Founding Fathers. He is still in the History Books, obviously can’t remove him completely but he isn’t mentioned as one of the key figures of the Enlightenment.[1]
  • Added a section called the unintended consequences of Affirmative Action. In the meantime, there is a section about the positive aspects of slavery in America and the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade is now referred to simply as ‘Atlantic Triangular Trade’. [1]

Can you begin to guess who this genius of Educational reform is? This stellar representative of a GOP Right Wing-nut might be? This would be President? Oh, I won’t hold you in suspense; it is my very own Governor Rick Perry. Only in Texas would they think to screw the pooch of Education this deep, keeping in mind a very large portion of our students are poor, Hispanic or Black.

The GOP promotes school choice, so do I so should we all. The GOP also promotes vouchers and privatization of our education system, here is where the GOP and I part ways. Families with no means to send their children outside of their communities, no transportation, no extra funds for school uniforms will not be in a position to ‘choose’ schools outside of their immediate communities. School choice is only for those with true choices, true means beyond the single ‘voucher’ for tuition and possibly books. The meme of borrowing money from your parents doesn’t begin to touch on what poverty means to those whose entire communities have been decimated by it.

Private industry will not build schools or invest in communities that represent no return on that investment, no profit. What does this mean? It means public funds will be all that remains and will be even more limited so long as we continue to limit public funding to property tax collection. It means after the Unions have been busted, public school teacher ranks have been further demonized and decimated and school text have been bastardized by boards with agendas, our children our future will be left in failing systems with no hope and no future.

Is this Race Based? It is poverty based and has the unintentional effect of further kicking the can down the road, closing the door on dreams and opportunity for those who would like to live the once real American Dream.

Is this Race Based? Perhaps a more important question is this truly unintentional or is it simply the new more polite Jim Crow.

http://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_sdi.asp

http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2012/2012006.pdf

http://www.census.gov/prod/2011pubs/acsbr10-05.pdf

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/13/education/13texas.html?_r=0

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/22/education/22texas.html?fta=y

[2] http://whitehouse12.com/republican-party-platform/

http://www.democrats.org/democratic-national-platform#moving-america

Trayvon and Me

There’s no tragedy in life like the death of a child. Things never get back to the way they were.

President Dwight Eisenhower

 

I have struggled with how to write this for weeks now. The escalation of emotions across the nation at the senseless and violent death of a boy on the brink of manhood is something none of us can quite fathom, quite accept and so we seek reasons for why it happened. What is it in our national psyche that causes us to seek justifications for what is inexplicable?

Each time I have approached writing this epistle my heart cracks. I am reminded of the feelings my family felt; the hurts and anger they experienced when they thought they might have lost me to random violence. When I have tried to write, I am brought to my knees, my mind explodes with questions but the most important is why.

Trayvon and Me

26-Feb-2012: Trayvon Martin a Black youth is found shot dead in Stanford, Florida. Trayvon is 17 years old, just a child, his entire life ahead of him.

7-Feb-1992: Valentine Logar a White woman is found shot three times in Fort Worth, Texas. Valentine is 34 years old, a mother of two young sons (read story here The Complete Story).

What do the two crimes; twenty years apart have in common you ask, certainly on the surface they don’t seem to be linked in any way. There is no direct relationship between Trayvon and me, the relationship is one created by my broken heart over the lives lost in our nation, not just Trayvon’ s, but those of the three young boys, not yet men who lost their lives the night they tried to take mine.

My purpose is to draw some parallels, in part because on 13-March-2012 the first of the three who shot me that fateful night was released from prison after serving his entire twenty-year sentence. He was born on 14-December-1975, he was just 17 years old when he was sentenced; he will be 37 years old this year. He has spent more time in prison than free.

Courtesty of News National Post.com

Trayvon died in his confrontation with George Zimmerman. There is a great deal of speculation that race played a part in Trayvon’s death, George Zimmerman determined Trayvon was a ‘suspicious’ character who did not belong and escalated a confrontation which ended in the death of Trayvon. Speculation aside, we know George Zimmerman stole this child’s life, we know this because George Zimmerman confessed to killing Trayvon. We currently have George Zimmerman’s side of the story; we have 911 calls and we have what many believe are questionable police procedures. We know one other thing right now, George Zimmerman is not sitting in jail, he is not out on bond either; George Zimmerman is a free man who after taking the life of a child is walking free in the community.

Why do I draw parallels, why am I so bothered by this story?

I keep wondering what would have happened if the roles would have been reversed, if the color of my skin had been Black and the color of my attackers had been White. Would the outcome been different?

I have read the confessions of my attackers. I wasn’t the only victim; I was the lucky one though. One thing it is important to know bigotry and racial hate runs deep and runs all ways. It isn’t just White on Black, it can be Black on White or any other combination; the difference is we just don’t hear about it as often. In their confessions, one of the key statements was their desire to “Kill White People”; this was their sole purpose.

Three young boys, not even out of their teens lost their lives the night they tried to take mine. Recent history says if our racial make-up had been reversed, the outcome would have very likely been different. I am appalled by this, heartsick in fact.

I do not have survivor’s guilt. My position hasn’t changed on forgiveness, remorse and reconciliation. Nor has my position changed on Justice, we all deserve it.

This means Trayvon deserves Justice.

Courtesy Washington Post

The Martins deserve justice for Trayvon.

This nation deserves justice for Trayvon but more than this, our children deserve better from us.

For our children who are losing their lives and futures before they have the opportunity to reach for it, we have to stand up and demand better. Our young boys and girls who are languishing in failing schools and communities without work for their fathers and mothers, they deserve more from us than our inattention or failure to engage. Our children deserve more than to be cannon fodder for the political warfare we are waging. Our children deserve more than another generation of sharing the yard, we already have three generations behind bars; are we willing to make it four?

My heart is broken, not just for Trayvon and his family but surprisingly for the three young men who tried to take my life. I don’t forgive them their actions, but today I think I hurt for them.

Crime, Punishment and Victims

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