Tuesday, March 31, 2015

"I'm going back to Indiana". Not.

I have only been to Indiana a couple of times. Once as a child when my father took the family to visit a dear friend of his who was a grad student at Notre Dame University, and I drove through there once on my way to Chicago from East Lansing, Michigan.

I don't want to offend any of my friends who happen to live in the Hoosier state, but please understand when I say that traveling to Indiana would not have been on my bucket list of things to do if I had never gone there. I mean....it's Indiana.

Now, though, Indiana is getting a lot of attention. And sadly for the people of that state it's for all the wrong reasons.

I bet the governor of Indiana wishes that he could have held back on signing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) just a little longer. The poor dude didn't see this backlash coming. It's as if the country that he and his fellow bigots think that they live in changed overnight.

Why just yesterday it was cool to discriminate against people based on race, sexuality, or whatever.  Not anymore. It's just not hip to be a bigot anymore.

But before we go piling on Indiana, let's remember that they are not alone. The state of Arkansas is on the verge of signing a similar law, and they still proudly fly the flag that is a symbol of the oppression heaped on my people in South Carolina.

"After much reflection and in consultation with leadership in the General Assembly, I've come to the conclusion that it would be helpful to move legislation this week that makes it clear that this law does not give businesses a right to deny services to anyone,"

That, my friends, is called backtracking.

Monday, March 30, 2015

The Field Negro guitar education post.

Image result for hendrix imagesThe Field Negro education series continues. Albeit on a lighter note.

So I am looking at this NYDN list of the greatest guitarist of all time....Ok, I see Hendrix. Check. Eddie Van Helen. Check. Jimmy Page. Check. BB King. Check. Some of these names I can't argue with. But as I continue down the list, I don't see the man that I personally consider the greatest of all time. (Sorry Mr. Hendrix.) What is wrong with these people?

Image result for ernest ranglin x imagesAnyway, any list that is supposed to feature the greatest guitarist of all time that doesn't include the nonpareil Ernest Ranglin is not a legitimate list as far as I am concerned. I don't care who else they throw in there.

Oh Field, stop it. You are only lobbying to get Ranglin on the list because you are Jamaican.

Nope, if that was the case I would have insisted on folks like Al Anderson, and  Stephen Cat Coore crashing the party. But I am trying my best to be an honest broker in this debate. I mean all you have to do is listen.

Clapton. Check. Keith Richards. Eh. Randy Rhodes. Eh. Chuck Berry. (Dude almost threw me off a boat from Catalina Island one night. Long story.)Check. 

Oh well, we can't all agree on everything.

One man's great riff is another man's just ordinary.

I just wish that someone would have checked with me first.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Driving while dumb.

Image result for 12th dist police cathey imagesThe Field Negro education series continues.

Sometimes it takes other people doing really dumb things to make you realize what kind of decisions you should not be making in your own life.

I happen to drive a particular type of vehicle which causes others with the same vehicle to acknowledge me when they see me driving down the road. It drives my wife nuts. "Seriously, do you all really have to do that?" Yes, as a matter of a fact we do. It's the kind of bond we have. Folks who don't drive this particular vehicle would never understand it.

The thing is, though, my connection with these individuals stop with the type of vehicle we choose to drive. Men who happen to share my race have a deeper connection to me regardless of what type of car they drive, what they do for a living, or where they happen to live. Unfortunately society made it that way.

So recently there were two incidents involving men of color which caused me to say: Really Negroes?! 

The first one is from right here in my hometown of Philadelphia.

"A Philadelphia police officer was charged Saturday with DUI and aggravated assault after he was discovered shortly after midnight inside his damaged police vehicle, police said.

Darryl Cathey, 26, a six-year veteran, was charged after he was seen driving the damaged vehicle and parking it at the 12th District station on 6500 Woodland Ave., police said.

Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey ordered Cathey suspended for 30 days with intent to dismiss.
Cathey pulled up to the station in the car with three flat tires and bent rims, a 12th District sergeant said.
The sergeant described Cathey as having bloodshot eyes and the smell of alcohol on his breath. He was not aware his vehicle had been damaged, police said.

As Cathey was being taken into custody, he allegedly began struggling with the supervisor and other officers from the 12th District. He was taken to a police detention unit for DUI.." [Source] 

I think I am speechless.

Then there is this other fellow from Fresno, California. (See my HNOTD)

"The arrest of Fresno Police Deputy Chief Keith Foster has sent shockwaves of disbelief throughout the city of Fresno. The high-ranking deputy chief is one of six people facing a slew of federal charges.

Foster is accused of working with accomplices to deal oxycodone, pot and heroin. The nearly 30-year police department veteran, his lawyer said, could hardly believe it himself.

"That has transferred to him personally and emotionally. He's very upset about that. He loves law enforcement, and now he is dealing with this," said Marshall Hodgkins, Foster's lawyer.

After a federal court arraignment Friday, Foster and another suspect -- Jennifer Donabedian -- were both released from custody. Of the six suspects they are the only two without criminal histories. Donabedian's attorney says that was the main reason for their release.

"She's obviously thoroughly scared. I mean, she's a young lady that's never been in trouble before," said Gerald Schwab, Donabedian's lawyer.

Schwab says Donabedian is a lifelong Fresno resident who's dating Denny Foster -- another suspect. Denny is Keith Foster's nephew. Schwab maintains his client's innocence and believes she may have been roped in by association.

"I think people are kind of jumping to some conclusions based on kind of what's been put out on the Internet or on TV or in the newspapers that may not be perfectly jiving with the facts," said Schwab.

Suspect Randy Flowers, 48, is also related to Keith Foster. But it's unclear how the final two suspects -- Sarah Ybarra and Rafael Guzman -- became involved in the alleged drug ring. Guzman is a felon who's been convicted of drug charges in the past. "

If what is being alleged about these two individuals is in fact true, it is both sad and tragic.

It's sad. Two men representing their community, their families, and the cities that they are sworn to protect; allegedly commit acts to betray the public trust.

I will close this post how I started it:

Sometimes it takes other people doing really dumb things to make you realize what kind of decisions you should not be making in your own life.



Saturday, March 28, 2015


I need a caption for this pic.
Play nice. 
*Pic from cnn.com

Friday, March 27, 2015

"After all the black people have left the room"

You never know with race in America.

Sometimes things happen to make you say that it's not as bad as some would make you believe, but then, sadly,  sometimes it seems that it is that bad.

Anyway, in keeping with the Field Negro education series, I give you the following:

"Has the sharing of prejudice evolved into a hip bonding ritual in 21st-century America? This writer shares his surprising experiences as a white male navigating through young white “liberal” circles — after all the black people have left the room. 

“White power!” the smiling girl declared, her fist held high in a grotesque imitation of a Black Power salute. A tall, thin, stylish humanities major in a midriff-baring red T, she was a vegan, an environmentalist, an intellectual, and she was my friend.

The comical scene played out to its record-scratching, freeze-frame, “WTF?” climax around a picnic table populated by frat boys in the middle of the sunny UCLA campus. It seemed like the thousandth time a friend had suddenly unloaded a blatantly racist bombshell, although this was the wildest one yet.

As a Canadian working and studying in Los Angeles for ten years, I began to wonder why progressive young hipsters of various races were so eager to privately share their disturbing ideas about black people. The fact that these probing admissions came from a large number of my “coolest” friends, rather than the usual suspects, made it seem like a disturbing new cultural phenomenon.

Seemingly nice young people, once they knew and trusted each other, were trying to take their friendship “to the next level” with these revelations of their racist beliefs. It was like they felt they could finally talk openly and drop the façade they maintained in public. They did this joyfully, as if it were a postmodern bonding ritual to confirm that they were members of the same cool social “tribe,” one that didn’t include blacks.

It wasn’t like all my friends, or even the majority of them, were doing this. But it was a lot of the ones that I had liked and admired before they let me in on their little secret. “White power” girl had been a friendly, interesting person I’d known for months when she invited me to lunch with her friends one day.

The friends turned out to be a bunch of burly, blond “Triumph of the Will”-esque frat boys, but when I talked to them, they seemed surprisingly “alternative.” They were into literature, history and art. They said they didn’t drink, inviting me to an underground frat party where they planned to take “psychedelics” and project old films along with the music, as if they were at a Hollywood club.
All this chilling and friendliness screeched to a halt when my friend saw a black student group handing out flyers nearby. She started fuming about it, saying it shouldn’t be allowed, that we ought to do something about that. Then she up and dropped herWhite power!” on us. I actually laughed and repeated it sarcastically, thinking it was a bad joke.

The frat boys froze and stared at her. She frantically tried to reassure them with “It’s okay, he’s into it!” At that point, I understood that I was the only one at the table not “into it.” One of the guys hissed “Shut the f— up!” at my friend. For a second, I felt I was in a conspiracy thriller. What was this, had I stumbled onto a coven of white supremacists at UCLA? I never really found out, since my “friend” barely spoke to me again after that.

Other encounters in L.A. weren’t as dramatic but ran along the same lines. When I first came to the city from Canada, I didn’t know what to expect, other than stereotypes learned from the mass media. Most of these weren’t accurate, but there was a sort of relaxed, casual racism and segregation around the city. I saw blacks and whites living and working in the same neighborhoods, but I didn’t have any close black friends for years, and neither did any of my friends.

This wasn’t surprising, considering some of their personal opinions. One of these friends in L.A. was a supercool, dreadlocked (but white) dude who told me his father was a Death Row Records corporate lawyer. His girlfriend was a blond cheerleader who said her bank executive father gave her an SUV, an apartment and $10k a month on her 16th birthday. They seemed to know the people and have the money to prove their stories.

The couple was unusually nice to my brother and me, eagerly inviting us out for expensive sushi in the Hollywood Hills. Once we had a few drinks, they got down to the bonding, regaling us, initially in hushed tones, with what they “knew” about black people. I don’t know why they chose us; maybe because we were nice Canadians they thought we must be good old-fashioned white folks.
The guy told us how much his father made off of the rappers and how easy it was to finesse their contracts to give them less profit. He said most of them were criminals and not smart enough to run their business by themselves. Considering who his father’s boss apparently was, he may have found it easy to justify certain stereotypes in his own mind. His girlfriend’s ideas were even more laughable, including the classic “Black people are dirty!”

Now, these two may sound like a couple of clichéd racists, but in everyday life, at school, around their black friends, they always seemed like non-judgmental, progressive liberals.
But there was another friend who was far more liberal than the others, and who had much more profound philosophical beliefs about race. This was a really caring, creative, and certifiably alternative Asian-American woman. She was well-educated, highly-skilled and just interested in the world.

One night, after lazily describing an eccentric idea for a piece of furniture shaped like a deep-sea creature, she explained her quite developed theories of social Darwinism as applied to African-American history and the civil rights movement.

She had heard that Martin Luther King was actually a self-serving demagogue who fomented racial animosity and stopped blacks from integrating into modern society. She wondered if the post-slavery marginalization and death of so many black people was just “survival of the fittest” at work — a natural “culling” that would efficiently thin the herd of American society by eliminating its weakest members.

She had also visited the South and was amazed at what she saw as such an ideal relationship between blacks and whites. She thought that they really knew how to get along with each other there because they had been living together so closely since the time of slavery.

Some of these opinions are extreme, but they may be more common among “intelligent” people than we think. It’s not that these apparently liberal racists knowingly create some convoluted hybrid philosophy combining progressive concepts with outdated racial theories. The reality may be that racist ideas are still passed along so effectively that many people take them for granted and don’t see any problem holding them in parallel to their political ideals, conservative or liberal.

That’s why this type of social bonding through shared bigotry seems so dangerous. It makes some people feel that racism is an important part of their identity, something that reinforces a sense of belonging to a special group, while differentiating that group from others." [Source]

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Field Negro seeking knowledge.

Image result for malcolm x  imagesSup field hands?

Tonight I need you to educate me a little bit.

Please finish the following sentences:

1. Race relations will improve in America when.....

2. My last experience with a person of another race was quite......

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

How far have we come?

Image result for civil rights race in america imagesThe Field Negro education and enlightenment series continues.

"Progress is an essential tenet of America’s civic religion. As someone born and raised in England, where “not bad” is a compliment and “could be worse” is positively upbeat, this strikes me as an endearing national characteristic. But as with any religion, when faith is pitted against experience, faith generally wins. And at that point, optimism begins to look suspiciously like delusion.

Since 1977, when Gallup started asking people if they thought they’d be better off the following year, a huge majority have said yes. A 2005 poll revealed that even though only 2 percent of Americans describe themselves as rich, 31 percent thought it very likely or somewhat likely that they would “ever be rich.” And as in most religions, those who have the least are the most devout. Despite entrenched and growing inequality, the poorer people are, the more optimistic they are likely to be about their future financial health.

The sixtieth anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark Supreme Court decision that struck down school segregation, offers yet another chance to gauge the progress toward racial equality in America. During this bumper period of civil rights commemorations—the current decade presents a litany of markers, from the uprisings in Birmingham to Martin Luther King’s assassination—the official mantra rarely changes: we have come a long way, but we have further to go. “To dismiss the magnitude of this progress…dishonors the courage and the sacrifice of those who paid the price to march in those years,” said Barack Obama, celebrating the March on Washington last year at the Lincoln Memorial. “But we would dishonor those heroes as well to suggest that the work of this nation is somehow complete.”

Who could argue with that? Half a century ago, America was officially an apartheid state, with black people denied the basic rights of citizenship in large swaths of the country. Then the signs came down; the laws were overturned; the doors to the polling stations were prized open. The notion that the work is proceeding perpetuates the myth: America has no reverse gear—we just keep going forward.

But the awkward truth is that when it comes to the goals laid down by the civil rights movement in general and Brown in particular, America is actually going backward. Schools are resegregating, legislation is being gutted, it’s getting harder to vote, large numbers are being deprived of their basic rights through incarceration, and the economic disparities between black and white are growing. In many areas, America is becoming more separate and less equal.

According to research recently conducted by ProPublica, “black children across the South now attend majority-black schools at levels not seen in four decades.” A recent Nation article illustrated how this trend is largely by design. In suburbs across the region, wealthier whites have been seceding from their inner- city school districts and setting up academic laagers of their own. The result is a concentration of race and class disadvantage in a system with far fewer resources. In a 2012 report, UCLA’s Civil Rights Project noted: “Nationwide, the typical black student is now in a school where almost two out of every three classmates (64%) are low-income.”

The discrepancy between black and white unemployment is the same as it was in 1963. According to the Institute on Assets and Social Policy at Brandeis University, between 1984 and 2007 the black-white wealth gap quadrupled. The Supreme Court is dismantling affirmative action and gutting voting rights. Meanwhile, incarceration disparities are higher than they were in the 1960s. And as Michelle Alexander points out in The New Jim Crow: “Once you’re labeled a felon, the old forms of discrimination—employment discrimination, housing discrimination, denial of the right to vote, denial of educational opportunity, denial of food stamps and other public benefits, and exclusion from jury service—are suddenly legal. As a criminal, you have scarcely more rights, and arguably less respect, than a black man living in Alabama at the height of Jim Crow. We have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.”

This is not to say that we have literally reverted to a bygone era. “No man ever steps in the same river twice,” goes the proverb. “For it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” We have a black president, a black attorney general and a black editor of The New York Times; there’s a growing trend to interracial relationships; suburbs are becoming more diverse. If the civil rights movement had been about getting black faces in new and high places, its work would now be done. But it wasn’t. It was about equality. And the problem is not that we still have a great deal of progress to be made or that progress is too slow—it’s that we are regressing.

This is not the first time this has happened. After the abolition of slavery, there was a brief period during Reconstruction when African-Americans made great strides, followed by a full-scale retrenchment in the South with the advent of Jim Crow. “The slave went free,” wrote W.E.B. Du Bois. “Stood a brief moment in the sun; then moved back again toward slavery.” In his speech, Obama acknowledged that “we’ll suffer the occasional setback.”

But there’s nothing “occasional” about this: the current reversals in the achievements of the civil rights era are akin to those after Reconstruction. That period lasted almost ninety years, and it took a mass movement to end it.

King saw this coming. After he was booed by young black men at a meeting in Chicago in 1966, he reflected, “For twelve years, I and others like me had held out radiant promises of progress, I had preached to them about my dream…. They were now hostile because they were watching the dream they had so readily accepted turn into a frustrating nightmare.” [Source]

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Field Negro education series continues.

Image result for jlp jamaica cia manly imagesIt's nice to see that us Americans are finally normalizing our relationship with our neighbors to the South in Cuba. 

This, of course, is a big deal. Because not long ago America was doing everything in her powers to keep other popular destinations in the region from going the way that Cuba did under Fidel Castro.

Being Jamaican I have somewhat of a vested interest in this subject.

"With the recent violence in Jamaica and the controversy over alleged drug lord, Christopher “Dudus” Coke, many people are talking about the infamous Jamaican Shower Posse and the neighborhood of Tivoli Gardens, where they have their base. What is being ignored largely by the media, is the role that the American government and the CIA had in training, arming and giving power to the Shower Posse.

It is interesting that the USA is indicting Christopher “Dudus” Coke, the current leader of the Shower Posse for drug and gun trafficking, given that the CIA was accused of smuggling guns into Jamaica and facilitating the cocaine trade from Jamaica to America in the 70s and 80s. In many ways Dudus was only carrying on a tradition of political corruption, drug running, guns and violence that was started with the help of the CIA.

Christopher “Dudus” Coke’s father was was Lester Coke, also known as Jim Brown, one of the founders of the Shower Posse and a fellow champion and protector of the impoverished Tivoli Gardens neighborhood in Kingston. Coke was a political enforcer and bodyguard to Edward Seaga, the leader of the Jamaican Labour Party.

Seaga’s opponent Michael Manley had begun to adopt “socialist” stances and began openly criticizing American foreign policies and meeting with U.S. enemy, Fidel Castro, in the 1970s. Given the Cold War the US was having with Russia, the CIA did not want Jamaica to be friendly with communists.

According to Gary Webb’s book,”The Dark Alliance,” Norman Descoteaux, the CIA station chief in Jamaica began a destabilization program of the Manley government in late 70s. Part of that plan was assassinations, money for the Jamaican Labour Party, labor unrest, bribery and shipping weapons to Manley’s opponents, like Lester “Jim Brown” Coke.

Author, Daurius Figueira writes in his book, “Cocaine And Heroin Trafficking In The Caribbean,” “In fact, it meant that illicit drug runners linked to the JLP were integrated into a CIA linked illicit drugs guns and criminal trafficking pipeline.”

Former CIA agent, Philip Agee, said “the CIA was using the JLP as its instrument in the campaign against the Michael Manley government, I’d say most of the violence was coming from the JLP, and behind them was the CIA in terms of getting weapons in and getting money in.”

One of Lester Coke’s associates, Cecil Connor, would claim that he was trained by the CIA to fight political wars for the JLP through killing and spying. Connor would stuff ballot boxes and intimidate voters to help the JLP win elections. Connor would go on from being a political thug to being part of the international Jamaican based cocaine ring known as the Shower Posse. He wound up testifying against Lester Coke and his cohort Vivian Blake, only to return to his native St. Kitts to become a drug kingpin who almost held the country hostage.

Christopher “Dudus” Coke’s father, Lester Coke has also been accused of working with the CIA. Timothy White speculates, in his biography of Bob Marley, “Catch A Fire,” that Jim Brown was part of a team of armed gunman that attempted to assassinate Bob Marley led by JLP enforcer Carl “Byah” Mitchell. Authors Laurie Gunst and Vivien Goldman also make the same assertions in their books, “Born Fi Dead” and “The Book Of Exodus.” Marley’s manager Don Taylor claims that one of Marley’s attackers was captured and admitted that the CIA had agreed to pay him in cocaine and guns to kill Marley.

Lester Coke would later be burned to death in a Jamaican jail cell, while awaiting extradition to the United States. Many people have claimed that he was killed so he wouldn’t reveal his secrets dealing with the CIA, JLP and criminal activity.

In its efforts to destabilize the Jamaican government in the 1970s, the CIA created a group of drug dealing, gun running, political criminals. Through the cocaine trade, these criminals would eventually become more powerful than the politicians they were connected to. The CIA destabilization program did not only destabilize Jamaica in the 70s, but it destabilized Jamaica for the next 40 years. Given the secrecy of both CIA and Jamaican society, it is unclear exactly what was the CIA’s role in creating the Shower Posse. Did they give them guns? Were they given cocaine? Were they trained how to smuggle drugs? Did the CIA use the Shower Posse to try and kill Bob Marley? These are all questions that the CIA should answer.

If what is alleged about the CIA is true, then they are partially responsible for the cycle of gun trafficking, gun smuggling and violence that plagues Jamaica today. If the US can extradite the son of one of the CIA’s political enforcers for trafficking guns and cocaine, shouldn’t the CIA be investigated for training Jamaicans on how to conduct political warfare, arming them, giving them cocaine and helping them traffic it? Given the revelation that the CIA allowed Nicaraguan drug dealers to sell cocaine in the US to fund their revolution against their communist government, it is not that far fetched to believe that they would arm Jamaicans to with guns and give them cocaine to fight communists in Jamaica." [Source]

Hmmm, sounds a lot like another plan to use cocaine for something other than snorting.  

Monday, March 23, 2015

The "post-racial" legacy that wasn't.

Image result for president obama racist imagesTonight we will hear from Clarence B. Jones as our Field Negro education series continues.

"President Obama has less than two years remaining in his presidency. Recent events have caused me to rethink some initial conclusions I had been considering about the future historic legacy of his administration.

The fight against ISIS, the ongoing negotiations with Iran, the U.S. Supreme Court's pending review of a key section of the Affordable Care Act, the events of Ferguson, the National Urban League's Annual Report on "The State of Black America," and numerous racially charged incidents, including the fraternity song at Oklahoma University, the confrontation between police and an African-American student over the validity of his campus ID, the unexplained hanging of an African-American man from a tree in Mississippi, racist police behavior in Fort Lauderdale, and a rising tidal wave of race-based resistance to President Obama mandate a more clinical review of his presidency in the future pantheon of American history.

When he was elected in 2008, there was an outpouring of media commentary from the left, right, and moderates.

Businessweek's  Nov. 11, 2008, issue described Barack Obama as "A Leader for the 'We' Generation":
The sweeping victory of Barack Obama ushers in a new era of leadership that will affect every aspect of American institutions and that sounds a death knell for the top-down, power-oriented leadership prevalent in the 20th century.
  A new style of "bottom-up, empowering" leadership focusing on collaboration will sweep the country. A new wave of 21st century authentic leaders will take oversee U.S. institutions of every type: business, education, health care, religion, and nonprofits. These new leaders recognize that an organization of empowered leaders at every level will outperform "command-and-control" organizations every time.
Recent estimates are that thanks to the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, about 16 million additional persons now have health insurance. Assuming this is so, this is encouraging if not remarkable. However, as I begin to rethink and review the Obama presidency, I think history will judge it based principally on two other matters: his foreign policy and the consequences of his presidency on the unfinished business of race relations in America.
Left with the financial and ideological results of our preemptive attack on and invasion of Iraq and the winding down of our war in Afghanistan, Obama has had to develop and implement a foreign policy limiting Iran's nuclear ambitions and safeguarding America from the maniacal, ideologically driven violence of ISIS. How much he succeeds or fails in this effort will indelibly define his presidential legacy.

However, what is likely to overshadow all other issues defining President Obama's legacy is how successful he was, as America's 44th president and first African-American president, at resolving the issue of race in America.

In writing about the 2012 campaign to reelect President Obama, I wrote:
There is one issue ... notwithstanding the paramount importance of the economy, that continues to be the common denominator of the presidential election in 2012, as it was in 2008: the historic issue of race and race relations in America. 
Not since the Civil War and the failed Congressional Reconstruction thereafter has race been such an explicit or implicit national issue. "Race relations" principally, but not exclusively, between black and white America continues to be the 800-lb. gorilla in most American households.
 Perhaps only surpassed by sex, is any public discussion -- or lack of discussion -- about race in America weighted down with more hypocrisy, ambivalence, fear and misunderstanding.
In the most simplistic sense, use or disuse of the so-called "race card" will cease only when there is a completely new "deck" from which the card is drawn.

Some 600,000 Americans killed one another during our civil war over the issue of the abolition or continuation of slavery. However, as Eric Foner writes in Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Business:
Virtually from the moment the Civil War ended, the search began for legal means of subordinating a volatile black population that regarded economic independence as a corollary of freedom and the old labor discipline as a badge of slavery.
The failure of Reconstruction irrevocably hindered the intended outcome of the Civil War: the full restoration of all the rights and privileges of citizenship owed to African-American slaves under our Declaration of Independence and Constitution, as amended with its Bill of Rights
Lest we forget, as James W. Lowen writes in Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong, "Perhaps the most pervasive theme in our history is the domination of black America by white America. Race is the sharpest and deepest division in American life."
In a speech titled "Mystic Chords of Memory," delivered at the University of Vermont on Sept. 12, 1991, celebrated documentary filmmaker Ken Burns said:
The black-white rift stands at the very center of American history. ... If we forget that -- if we forget the great stain of slavery that stands at the heart of our country, our history, our experiment -- we forget who we are, and we make the great rift deeper and wider.
Presenting a more optimistic outlook on race, in a December 2014 interview on BET, President Obama said:
It's important to recognize that as painful as these incidents are, we can't equate what is happening now to what happened 50 years ago. If you talk to your parents, your grandparents, they'll tell you things are better. Not good, in some cases, but better. The reason it's important to understand that progress has been made is that it then gives us hope we can make even more progress.
Regrettably, however, our 2015 existential reality repeatedly confirms that a deep and abiding derivative of the white supremacist racism of slavery is still alive and well under the presidency of Barack Obama. It is more insidious than ever, only today existing in a form commensurate with the ubiquitous and advanced technology of the communication of information in the second decade of the 21st century.  
Perhaps unfairly, but I believe unavoidably, Obama's presidential legacy will be determined by the success or failure of our collective effort to finally resolve the issue of race under his presidency. Historically, this is likely to be more definitive than any other single issue.
 I had hoped it would be otherwise." [Source]

Call me crazy, but I am not a bit surprised that race relations got worse and not better under Barack Obama.

Did people really believe that racists all over America were going to say: Oh, we have a black president now;  I don't despise black people anymore. Please!

The problem with this president is that he also bought into the "post-racial" hype. And, unfortunately for him, by the time he realized that there was no such thing, his enemies had already gained the upper hand.

It's a shame that Americans wanted the election of Barack Obama to absolve them from the ugly stain of racism that continues to sully our history. That was never going to happen. There is no  magical mystical Negro with a kumbaya wand to wave away bigotry and ignorance.

That will take generations of education and self-awareness, as well as a willingness for us as a country to acknowledge that the problem still exists.


Sunday, March 22, 2015

Rhetoric and the racist.

Image result for racism images daughters of confederacyI have been extremely busy these days, but I want to stay engaged with you and share knowledge with you when I find it, so I will keep these timely cut and paste posts coming your way.
"In a striking recent video interview, a Guardian reporter presses Pat Godwin, president of Selma, Alabama’s United Daughters of the Confederacy, on the question of whether viewers are right to assume Godwin’s expressed views are racist. Godwin replies, “Well, you have to define ‘racist’ to me. What is a racist?” Godwin’s subsequent comments demonstrate that her question is mainly rhetorical, a gesture meant to indicate that “racist” is too subjective a term to carry any weight, ever. For Godwin,
“The word ‘racist’ is, like I say so many times, is like beauty; beauty is in the eye…the eyes of the beholder. Well, if someone is defining racist or racism, it all depends on who’s defining it, because it’s their opinion. It’s their opinion. I’m a racist in the sense that I’m white, I was born white, I’m proud to be white, I believe in my race, I want to see it perpetuated, I want it to survive on this planet. I defend, protect, and preserve my white race.”

When the reporter turns to one of Godwin’s associates and asks him, “Are you racist as well?” he fires back programmatically: “Define racism.”

Though the reporter has already given a working definition, and Godwin a mini-dissertation on defining racism, the gentleman is quick to ape Godwin’s rhetorical strategy — to invalidate any charges of racism by challenging any definition of the word itself.

As an English professor, I’m particularly sensitive to this kind of rhetorical tactic.  I advise students to make a habit of finding more specific language for grand abstractions like “true love,” “the soul” and “finding yourself,” because each of these notions is so boundlessly vague that it means nothing without clarification. The solution, usually, is to historicize, to ground the abstract concept in some historical context so that we know the “true love” you’re writing about is, say, the transcendence of social circumstances that prohibit a relationship between lovers in a time and place of arranged marriages and family feuds.

Similarly, I discourage phrases like “in my opinion” or “that’s just your opinion,” because these are often ways of giving up, or of pretending like there are no gradations of value. “In my opinion” too often means “I don’t want to think any further through this challenging question of value,” the sort of question that may not have a single, correct answer, but certainly has degrees of implausible, acceptable and compelling answers.

People don’t typically fight wars or have heated political debates over mere differences of opinion. Rather, whether we’re arguing about racism, a passage from Shakespeare, an abortion policy or conflict in Gaza, the stakes of each argument vary in intensity, but the fundamentals are the same: Both sides of a conflict think they’re right, not just because of “opinion,” but because of differences of value that can be rooted in and explained by a mix of experience, tradition and faith, as well as logic, fact and evidence. We fight harder when the stakes are higher; but even when the stakes are so negligible that we aren’t moved to quibble, we have our reasons for thinking as we do.

Indeed, if you tell me that my favorite dessert, or maybe even my favorite song, is lousy, I may be content to drop the issue and say you’re “entitled to your opinion”; but choosing to attribute our differences in taste to your opinion doesn’t negate the fact that I have specific reasons to think that, on this matter, I’m right and you’re wrong. If, instead of dessert or music, we were talking about a disagreement over abortion or the death penalty, I doubt we’d be so conciliatory.

Thus, the neo-Confederate challenge to “define racism” is so effective because it forces the average person—that is, the person for whom whether to be racist is not a serious value proposition—to examine a definition that we too often take for granted. (“Why do I like cake so much?  I don’t know; I just…it tastes good!”) And because racism is a complicated notion, whatever equivocation or uncertainty that arises naturally when we think it through can appear, to the neo-Confederate, like a weakness of position.

Accordingly, when Pat Godwin says “define racism,” she isn’t looking for a solid, widely agreed upon definition; she’s hoping for uncertainty and equivocation. And once she gets an on-the-spot, sound-bite definition that’s nevertheless serviceable—the reporter says a “racist is usually somebody who discriminates on the basis of skin color”—Godwin and her associate both question the definition, almost in unison, before Godwin launches into her own personal take. (“The way I look at it …”) Getting to this point in the discussion—“the way I look at it”—was always Godwin’s goal, not just in urging the reporter to define racism, but in telling him right from the beginning “you have to define racist to me” (emphasis mine).

Having established what she takes to be the irrecoverable instability of the term “racist,” Godwin goes on, disingenuously, to appropriate the term “racist” as a term she can identify with. The comment “I’m a racist in the sense that I’m white” aligns being racist with something absolutely benign and widely experienced—the simple fact of being born white—before Godwin slips gradually from a definition of racist as merely being white to a definition more in line with white supremacy, one that also means “defending[ing], protect[ing], and preserv[ing] [her] white race.” I say that Godwin’s identification as a racist in this moment is disingenuous because she fully understands that “racist” is a pejorative term. If she didn’t, both her and her associate wouldn’t have needed to disarm the term in the first place before coyly identifying with it.

That’s why this interview is so telling, not just for the racial mentality of Godwin and the neo-Confederates, but for the right’s racial discourse more broadly. Complaints about “reverse racism,” and pushback against the assertions of the academic left that minority or subjugated groups can’t be racist as such, are often ways of claiming the legacy of white racism as a benign cultural history deserving of its own protections. This is exactly what Godwin is doing when she flippantly identifies as a racist because she’s proud of being born white. She’s trying to convince us that racism is really just white heritage (whatever that would look like), while something more akin to what conservatives call “reverse-racism” is the persecution of whites and white heritage. Hence, “define racism for me” means just that: give me a definition that affirms my worldview, because if not, I’ve got my own definition.

It’s important we understand such rhetorical tactics not simply as forms of racism, but as part of an important history that parallels, and lives symbiotically off of, the history of racism: the history of denying the existence of racism. Whether it’s borrowing the multiculturalist language of discrimination in accusations of “reverse-racism,” or expropriating the term “racist” as a symbol of white pride, the perpetrators subject themselves to a double-bind: They respect the idea of race-based discrimination when they themselves feel embattled or diminished as whites, but deny the same when the victims of discrimination are minorities.

“Define racism” is not an easy prompt with an easy answer, but we do have answers much better developed than Godwin’s opinion-based approach to the question. If we historicize racism, rather than treating it as abstraction or opinion, we find that racism in the U.S. is not just discrimination in general, but a history of a dominant class of European whites subjecting minorities by means of things like the theft of land, the destruction of native populations, slavery, internment, Jim Crow, voting restrictions, restrictions on access to education and home ownership, and hurtful or defamatory portrayals in entertainment and media.

Minorities can be discriminatory or bigoted against whites, but “racism” gains value as a term through its specificity.

Racism is not about general bigotry or discrimination (notice we already have words for those general kinds of human behavior), but the history of systematic forms of discrimination perpetrated by whites. Conservatives vested in notions of “reverse-racism” hate this qualification because they confuse the two-way logic of “discrimination” with the specific historical purchase of “racism” as its own term. But we use “racism” in this specific way because the repeated, race-based subjugation of minorities by whites in U.S. history is a specific phenomenon that merits a name. Attempts to muddle the meanings and associations of that name—“racism”—are so often attempts to minimize that history, to make it disappear by attacking the name we’ve given it." [More here]

*Pic from theatlantic.com

Saturday, March 21, 2015


I need a caption for this pic.
*Pic from goingglobaltv.com

Friday, March 20, 2015

"The state of black America."

Image result for black lives  imagesMore knowledge from the Field Negro education series:

"Last year was a year of great tumult in America. Income, education and equality gaps have remained steady. The voting rights of many Americans were eroded or greatly limited. And the killings of unarmed black men by police and later the lack of indictments in those killings sparked massive unrest, illuminating the trust gap between many communities of color and law enforcement.
Even as 2014 marked a year of momentous job growth, many have not seen their job and income prospects buoyed by the upsurge.

“The dark cloud inside this silver lining is that too many people are still being left behind,” Marc Morial, head of the National Urban League, wrote in the organization’s 2015 State of Black America Report, the annual indexing of black and Latino equity in America.

I’d like to be here reporting to each and every one of you that equality is flourishing. I’d like to be here reporting that equal opportunity is abundant and flowing. I’d like to be able to say that racism is dead and gone forever and ever from American life,” Morial said during an event in Washington. “But the reality is that we cannot. And the reality is we have this obligation. This duty, this essential role to report the facts and the truth and how it is today even if those fact and that truth are extremely painful.”

The report, the “State of Black America – Save our Cities: Education, Jobs + Justice” was released on Thursday morning during the event. This year’s report, The National Urban League’s 39th, is available in an all-digital format featuring reports, graphs and articles.

The facts as stated in the report are mostly dismal and stark, particularly in terms of economic parity for blacks and Hispanics and whites. Despite 12 straight months of private sector job gains above 200,000 and a national unemployment rate of just 5.5%, the unemployment rates for blacks and Hispanics in many of the country’s major metropolitan areas is as much as 3-to-1 or 4-to-1.
The numbers are even more disheartening in terms of the wealth gap. The net worth for African-Americans was $6,000, for Hispanics it was $7,000 and for whites it was $110,500.

The disparities weren’t, as some might intuit, limited to the gritty urban cores of the Northeast or impoverished areas of the South. San Francisco, which Morial described as a picturesque, “bastion of progressive politics,” ranked 70th out of 70 major metropolitan areas in medium income equality.
In that city, the average medium income for black households was just $39,000 compared to $95,000 for whites.

According to the report, which uses a formula of quantifiable factors to produce its equality index, African-Americans in 2014 were just 72% equal to whites with full equality between the two groups being 100%. Hispanics were slightly better at 78%.

The equality index included economics (black 55.8%, Hispanic 61.7%), health (black 79.8%, Hispanic 106.9%0, education (black 76.1%, Hispanic 74.6%), social justice (black 60.6%, Hispanic 72.7%) and civic engagement (black 104%, Hispanic 71%).
“Education is not the automatic great equalizer,” Morial said.

Even college educated African-Americans faced drastically higher unemployment rates compared to their white counterparts with the same level of educational attainment, according to the report.
Yet, even with the deep and lingering disparities 2014 was indeed a banner year in some educational aspects. The high school graduation rates for American students are the highest they’ve been in history, dropout rates are at historic lows and there are more students of color in college than ever before.

But in the aggregate of the broader indexing of education, employment and justice, the outlook for black and brown people remains troubling as ever.

“What do we say and how would we frame the state of black America for 2015,” Morial said. “I must use the word crisis.”

On the justice front fewer African-Americans were victims of violent crimes. There are more black lawmakers in Congress than ever before, 48. And the Justice Department under Attorney General Eric Holder has confronted misconduct by law enforcement and worked hard to improve police and community relations, Morial said.

Yet, 2014 was a watershed moment in the collision of violence and law enforcement.

Perhaps no incident of last year exemplified that crisis – in the confluence of income, housing and social justice concerns— as the killing of Michael Brown Jr. in Ferguson, Missouri and the local and national fallout that followed. Long before Brown’s killing by former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson last August, the small city in the suburbs of St. Louis was rife with income inequality and deep residential segregation. While blacks made up the majority of the population there, the city’s leadership was majority white including nearly all of the police force, the city council and school board.

Brown’s killing sparked protests and riots that spilled nationwide that focused on state sanctioned violence against blacks but also the various inequities in the criminal justice system for African-Americans, in particular young black men.

The black community in Ferguson had “no role in their government, with no representation in their police department, so when the incident happened it was as Langston Hughes poems says, it exploded,” Morial said, referencing Hughes’s poem “A Raisin in the Sun.”

The Justice Department recently released a scathing report that outlined a broad pattern and practices of abuses and violations of both federal law and the constitutional rights of African-Americans by police.

“While America may have seen the reaction, the Justice Department report put a spotlight on a long system of practices in Ferguson, Missouri, there are Fergusons here and there are Fergusons there and there are Fergusons everywhere,” Morial said. “America today is a tale of two nations. It is a tale of two Americas. It is a tale of some who have achieved a great modicum of success, economic success, upward mobility, home ownership, a strong quality of life.

“It’s the product of their hard work, it’s a product of opportunity, a product of many factors,” Morial said. “But there is that America that is too black and too brown, not all black and all brown, but too black and too brown, which seems to be stuck on the other side, stuck on the other side of this great American divide.”' [Source]

Thank you for your contribution Mr. Lee.