Clinton And Obama Call For Truce; Racism Battles On



Martin Luther King Jr. Oratorical Contest Toledo, Ohio 2000

copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

On the first day of the New Year, a banner headline screamed to elite readers of The Wall Street Journal, “What Kucinich Saw: Witnesses Described His Close Encounter.”  Murdoch News Corporation Journalist, Michael M. Phillips offered what booklovers yearn to learn, the personal history of each of the players in a Presidential campaign.  Tall tales and tittle-tattle capture the attention of Americans.  The substantive information provided in these yarns, is scant.  Nonetheless, the entertainment value is vast.  An expectant public wants the dirt.  We are happy to sling mud and spit in the face of historical leaders.  

It is far easier, and perhaps more pleasurable to speak superfluously than it is to delve into the real issues.  The effects of economy on the average American, the wars and the carnage that is expected to continue long into the future, health care, expensive and inadequate as it is, and especially racism are thought too delicate to fully discus.  This truth was made more obvious, when Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama agreed to a truce for the “good of the country,” the Democratic Party, and for their respective campaigns.

The meaningful discourse, now purposely thwarted by the two most prominent Presidential hopefuls, began when the former First Lady spoke of the democratic system and how change is created in American society.  Senator Clinton said, “Dr. King’s dream began to be realized when President Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” Clinton continued. “It took a president to get it done.”

The comment, “unfortunate, and ill-advised” as defined by rival aspirant, Barack Obama stirred much debate.  Afro-Americans nationwide stopped and reassessed their stance.  Influential Blacks in Congress cautioned the candidate.  

Clinton has been criticized over the last week by some prominent African-American political leaders for remarks they perceived as diminishing the accomplishments of Martin Luther King Jr.

Eleanor Holmes Norton, who represents Washington, D.C., in Congress, joined the chorus, warning Clinton to “watch out” in her comments on race.  “The black community is not only sensitive on race,” Norton said in an interview on Bloomberg Television today.  It is “super-sensitive on race.”

Loyal Clinton supporter, Andrew Young, a Black leader, and a trusted aide to Martin Luther King, remained faithful, as did others Clinton devotees.

However, amongst the electorate, those less famous for the active role they played in the fight for freedom, there was much rage.   Many recall the  sacrifice Black people made, the blood spilled, and the dream more real today with thanks to reverend King and his commitment to Civil Rights.  Battered and bruised, peaceful individuals held onto their hope.  They trusted they could change a nation mired in racism.  Black folks learned to believe, inspired by a man who made history, and who transformed a way of life, Doctor Martin Luther King Junior.  Hence, for countless Americans, Hillary Clinton’s remark was unwarranted, unwise, and diminished the achievements of Reverend King.  Her statement was equally dismissive of the tens of thousands who stood beside Martin.

Clinton argued her words were misunderstood.  Her intent distorted.  She reminded Americans of her history, and her close affiliation with Black causes and Afro-American leaders.  Accusations flew across the aisles.  For days, the rhetoric raged on.  

In truth, the words could have come from any candidate, or any individual.  The pronouncement could have easily been made on the streets.  For dark-skinned persons the proclamation speaks to the profound prejudice in America.  For the average Joe or Joanne,  Clinton’s observation verified what they believe.  There is no reason to hope that a man or a community can change what is.  Common people are powerless.  In American, people think that only the President of the United States has the authority to accomplish what others cannot.

In the “Land of the free and home of the brave”, most people believe they cannot make a difference.  Americans consider the government as separate from self.  The public feels powerless.  No matter the race, religion, or creed most Americans think they, as individuals, can do little to create change.  For the majority of the population, it makes sense that a prominent Civil Rights Leader could not realize his dream without the assistance of a higher Earthly authority.

Members of many an activist group think themselves ineffective.  Efforts to transform the country, and the planet, are great.  Yet, the masses do not see what advocates do.  On the rare occasions that they do, citizens retort “You cannot fight City Hall, so why try.”  Perchance, that is the reason that the mainstream media does not report on rallies, or possibly, those in power, the influential individuals who control American democracy do not cover dissent for they do not wish to sanction the little guys and gals.  Attempts to alter the establishment appear futile, or are accepted as such.

Conventional wisdom is we, the people, do not control what occurs in this country.  Legislators make laws.  The President of the United States ratifies the regulations.  There is little regard for the will of the people.  Once in a while, an Act may benefit the common folk.  Such was the circumstance in 1964.  However, for the most part, the little people, particularly persons of color, cannot expect to alter a nation, or its citizenry.  In this country, people accept the process.  Hence, initially, few questioned Senator Clinton’s words.  Indeed, countless, thought the statement accurate.  Some dark-skinned community leaders, who supported the Senator prior to the statement, avowed their continued commitment.

Residents of the United States, mostly, remain resistant to the rhetoric, In the “Land of the free,” it is easy to understand that while feathers might be ruffled and the hairs on the back of many a neck might be raised the candidates and the constituents will go on as though this topic is not as important as others.  In America, apathy abounds, and why not.  People have no reason to hope.  They do not trust that they, as individuals, or even as community leaders with millions of followers, can transform this nation.  Thus, for the majority of citizens, the Clinton comment went unnoticed.  

Nonetheless, numerous Afro-Americans heard the words and were disheartened.  Hillary Clinton’s spouse, Bill had long been characterized as the “First Black President of the United States.”  The two, together, husband and wife, were said to have done more to improve the circumstances of Afro-Americans than any other “Administration” had.  Among those who felt close to the Clinton’s, there was wonderment.  How could a Clinton make such a statement?  Hilary is not Bill.  Her background and upbringing are significantly different from his.  Hillary Clinton’s childhood and adult pursuits may be more typical for white Americans

For many Caucasians, and perchance for Hillary Clinton the uproar over her analysis of what occurs in America before change can occur, seemed a mystery.  Countless white Americans did not take offense; nor did they comprehend why Black persons might have.  In truth, incalculable numbers of light-skinned individuals never understood much of what Black Americans thought, or think.  White people hear that African Americans consider Bill Clinton the “First Black President.”  For Anglos this belief was and is a paradox.  Some Anglos admittedly struggle  to believe this man is beloved by people of color.  Essayist, Suzy Hansen, of Salon fame, was among the befuddled.  Hansen confessed the determination made no sense to her.  The Columnist recounts her observations.

In her now-famous defense of a scandal-plagued Bill Clinton, Nobel prizewinner Toni Morrison, went so far as to call him “our first black president.  Blacker than any actual black person who could ever be elected in our children’s lifetime.”  “Clinton,” Morrison wrote in the 1998 New Yorker essay, “displays almost every trope of blackness: single-parent household, born poor, working-class, saxophone-playing, McDonald’s-and-junk-food-loving boy from Arkansas.”

I remember reading Morrison’s essay and choking.  Morrison’s estimation of Clinton’s blackness seemed shallow, offensive and beside the point.  At the time, I wasn’t the only one unnerved, and I’m sure many people still have problems with calling Clinton “the first black president,” no matter how Morrison intended it.  Yet, in retrospect, I realize that my sharp reaction had something to do with age: I was pretty young when Reagan and Bush were in office.  Like most white people, I didn’t understand how Clinton related to the African-American community; I also had a limited memory of how other presidents treated blacks.

 

In America other Presidents, all ivory skin leaders did not relate to the difficulties of dark-complexioned persons.  The prim and proper alabaster population, daily, disregarded the plight of people of African descent.  Black persons were to be seen, working, and not heard.  For centuries, Americans, White, Anglo, Saxon Protestant, Catholic, Mormon, Agnostic, and Atheist alike thought Afro-Americans were less valuable, less intelligence, less important than their Caucasian brethren.  Indeed, paler pinkish persons did not feel remotely related to those whose skin shone a purplish brown hue.

For centuries, Caucasians sought to control the Black man or woman.  When they realized the error of their ways, white people did not know what to say, or do.  Subtly, Anglos shunned African-American citizens.  Oh, smiles were exchanged.  Cordialities could be heard.  However, in sallow-skinned abodes across the nation, individual spoke from there heart.  “Girl, you better not marry a Black man.”  “Son, don’t you be seen with that girl.  You will put the family to shame.”  On the surface, in public, white folks may have been polite.  They may appear accepting; however, ask them what they think in the quiet of their homes . . .

In recent years, as Black people gained a modicum of power, whites withered when in their presence.  Caucasians embarrassed to divulge the disdain that had been passed down for generations, worked to present a posture of approval.  In truth, for a vast number of Caucasians, tolerance was the tone.  There was an unspoken tension between the races.  In fact, today this strain still exists.  Yet, the majority of Americans wish to believe the anxiety does not exist.  There is much pressure not to be thought of as prejudiced.

Bill Clinton was not, and is not defined as a bigot.  Black Americans felt he truly felt their pain.  President Clinton had lived as Black persons do.  He could and does relate.  African-Americans appreciate this.  Journalist, Suzy Hansen wanted to explore why this might be.  In an interview with DeWayne Wickham, Hansen, and her readers, learned “Why blacks love Bill Clinton.”  DeWayne Wickham, a former adjunct faculty member in the University of Maryland’s College of Journalism, an occasional presenter at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, an author and a columnist for USA Today offered his informed opinion in response to Hansen’s questions.

You do explain how poorly previous presidents have treated — or haven’t treated at all, for that matter — the black community.  Do you think the black community’s enthusiasm for Clinton has something to do with the fact that Reagan and Bush were particularly insensitive? Was Clinton refreshing?

Ronald Reagan and George Bush I were part of a long line of presidents who just didn’t get it when it comes to people of color, particularly African-Americans. Of the first 15 presidents, 13 of them were staunch supporters of slavery. Eight of them actually owned slaves. Only John Adams and John Quincy Adams had no stomach for the institution. When you start talking about 41 presidents, you’ve already lost a third of them right there.

Then, what you find is that most presidents ran away from the black community. It was a difficult issue during slavery for white politicians. It was a difficult issue in the post-slavery period for politicians. It was a tough issue for a lot of presidents during the Jim Crow era when blacks were knocking on doors, demanding anti-lynching legislation, and Southern politicians were coming into the halls of Congress and the Oval Office, saying, “Not on our watch will you push that kind of legislation upon our people.”

The legislators had the power of the vote in Congress, and African-Americans had only, on their side, the moral high ground. Most presidents opted for the power of the vote. You have to get up to FDR and LBJ — on whose watch the important civil rights legislation in our history was passed. So, the list is very short.

What makes Clinton special is that he found a way to connect with us that was personal and up close. He convinced us in words and in deeds that this relationship was at least partly in his heart, as well as in his head. This guy grew up in the back of his grandfather’s store in Hope, Ark., hanging out with black kids.

Perhaps, this explanation helps us to understand the importance of empathy.  Bill Clinton does not differentiate between a person of one color or another, or at least he discriminates to a lesser degree than other American Presidents did, or white persons do.

Characteristically, Caucasian Americans may associate with ebony individuals; they can befriend a select few of those labeled Black.  However, unless Anglos integrate Afro-Americans into their real-life, place their dark-skin brethren in their hearts, until Anglos, by choice associate with persons of color, day in and day out, they cannot truthfully claim to be colorblind.  Yet, they do, and then make statements such as the one Hillary Clinton offered.

A Black American; however, knows to the core, in the United States, there is no equality.  Ample evidence demonstrates, just as the former First Lady implied.  “The man” [or powerful white woman] must determine what is best for America.  An influential leader, rarely if ever a person of color,  must do what needs to be done.  Only a person strong enough to be placed in Oval Office can better the nation.  Thus far, no Black person has been thought to be of the caliber necessary to be President of the United States.

Americans claim Afro-Americans are not experienced enough in matters of State.  They are not competent to lead a country.  Ebony applicants lack the talent or skills necessary for the job, or so citizens of this country proclaim.  There is always a reason not to advance a Black candidate beyond where he or she is.  In the past, and possibly in the future, a white individual can and likely will fill the boots of President of the United States, of a corporation, or a community board, not because they are better suited for the position, it is just not quite time to leave racism behind.

Even Bill Clinton accepted this truth.  When President Clinton decided to withdraw his nomination of Civil Rights Lawyer, Lani Guinier  for Assistant Attorney General, his actions spoke volumes.  Lani Guinier expressed her deep and sincere frustration for the fact that we live in a nation where people choose to distort the history of a Black Leader.  Guinier was sorrowful; she did not have an opportunity to defend herself against the inaccuracy of numerous attacks.  Prominent Civil Rights Lawyer, Lani Guinier could not publicly correct the misrepresentations of her record.  However, she added her acknowledgement that a “divisive debate” over race was the “last thing” this nation could afford.

In taking the latter position, though not in her larger views, Guinier typified the current stance of most American liberals and much of the left by implying that the Democratic Party’s hesitantly progressive politics, is such a fragile flower that it cannot survive even the frank discussion of racism, let alone the pursuit of ‘race specific reform initiatives.

After a stint of resignation for the reality that was in the 1990s, when Lani Guinier agreed to forfeit her nomination, and forego the potentially conflict-ridden conversation the reflective Harvard Law School Professor and co-Author of The Miner’s Canary: Enlisting Race, Resisting Power, Transforming Democracy spoke out.  In a 2004 an article titled A People’s Democratic Platform Guinier wrote . . .

Never has it been clearer that Democrats must promote a national conversation about what it means to be a multiracial democracy.

However, this dialogue has yet to occur.  Each time the people of this country have an opportunity to ford a new frontier, and fashion a multiracial democracy, we forego the necessary discussion.  We rather not chat about what could be, let alone act on alternatives.

Two years after Guinier’s declaration Americans were again confronted with the realities of racism. The race for a Tennessee Senate seat was on.  Black American, Representative Harold E. Ford Junior, the Democratic candidate from Memphis whose campaign for the Senate was considered among the most hopeful in a mid-term election was doing well in the polls.  People in the community gravitated towards the refined son of a former Congressman.  A lawyer in his own right, this sophisticated genteel gentleman seemed ideal to replace retiring Senator Bill Frist.  The Republicans feared the rise of Harold Ford, and decided to feed on the fears of the white American electorate.  Republicans framed an advertisement and fashioned a message that is ever-present in America.

The commercial, financed by the Republican National Committee, was aimed at Representative Harold E. Ford Jr., the black Democrat from Memphis whose campaign for the Senate this year has kept the Republicans on the defensive in a state where they never expected to have trouble holding the seat.

The spot, which was first broadcast last week and was disappearing from the air on Wednesday, featured a series of people in mock man-on-the street interviews talking sarcastically about Mr. Ford and his stands on issues including the estate tax and national security.

The controversy erupted over one of the people featured: an attractive white woman, bare-shouldered, who declares that she met Mr. Ford at a “Playboy party,” and closes the commercial by looking into the camera and saying, with a wink, “Harold, call me.”

A spokeswoman for Mr. Ford, who is single, said he was one of 3,000 people who attended a Playboy party at the Super Bowl last year in Jacksonville, Fla.

Critics asserted that the advertisement was a clear effort to play to racial stereotypes and fears, essentially, playing the race card in an election where Mr. Ford is trying to break a century of history and become the first black senator from the South since Reconstruction.

Hilary Shelton, director of the N.A.A.C.P.’s Washington bureau, said the spot took aim at the sensitivities many Americans still have about interracial dating.

John Geer, a professor at Vanderbilt University and a specialist in political advertising, said that it “is playing to a lot of fears” and “frankly makes the Willie Horton ad look like child’s play.”

Professor Geer was alluding to the case of a convicted black murderer used in Republican commercials contending that the 1988 Democratic nominee for president, Michael S. Dukakis, was soft on crime.

Mr. Ford has been campaigning as an independent, new generation Democrat dedicated to changing the atmosphere in Washington; to putting more attention on the needs of the middle class and on bread and butter issues like health care and to bringing a fresh approach to the war in Iraq. He has strongly resisted Republican efforts to pigeonhole him as a liberal.

While the label Liberal can be avoided, other terms will suffice.  A Progressive cannot wipe away the color of their skin.  Harold Ford was unable to separate himself from the image of a single Black man on the prowl for a white woman, or so we might surmise.  The quality candidate did not win the Senate seat.

Barack Obama may try not to draw attention to what could be problematic for his campaign, the race factor; nonetheless, accomplished and admired as he is, he cannot negate that his skin color, and how white persons react to any claim that causes white America concern will influence the vote.

In Nevada, registered voters received robot-calls.  The intent was to remind white Americans, already anxious, of what they feared most.  Barack Obama is not as he appears.  A Harvard scholar, a former State Senator, a United States Senator, and a Presidential aspirant, is just as our enemies.  He must be. His middle name is Hussein and . . .

“I’m calling with some important information about Barack Hussein Obama,” says the anonymous caller. “Barack Hussein Obama says he doesn’t take money from Washington lobbyists or special interest groups, but the record is clear that he does.”

The male voice concludes: “You just can’t take a chance on Barack Hussein Obama.”

In America, we do not speak of race; however, differences in skin color are always on our mind.  Caucasians see a Black person walking in a “white neighborhood” and they wonder why.  If whites hear of a crime, they assume the perpetrator is Black.  Pink-skin people work to demonstrate that they believe in equality; however, since they, themselves feel hopeless and not among the authorities that rule it is difficult for them to accept that there was a man, and a time, when Black people moved mountains of hate.

Nonetheless, whites try to understand, on occasion.  Caucasians set aside a day to honor the Civil Right s Leader, Martin Luther King Junior.  A holiday was established so that all might revere and remember the dream.

As the turmoil and talk of the truce faded, Americans celebrated.  On Tuesday, January 15, 2008, as the nation observed the anniversary of Martin Luther King Junior’s birth, and settled back into oblivion, satisfied that neither Hillary Clinton, or Barack Obama would mention the unspeakable, the headlines screamed again, “Beware!”  Beware!  Black People cannot to be trusted.  Weary white Americans, woeful of a world they have never known, are willing to believe Barack Obama must not be placed in a position of power.  Again, Americans are easily absorbed in distraction.  As witnessed earlier, some subscribe to the popular stories.  They spread rumors.  True, false, or not as a narrative might lead us to believe, Americans reveled in the chatter, before Hillary Clinton touched a nerve, and will again.  People hope gossip will lessen the pain or at least help them to avoid discussions of the truer issues.  If accusations are made against one person, than we need not look at the blanket of bigotry that envelops most every white American.  

A column in the Washington Post this morning by Richard Cohen reported that Trumpet Magazine, founded by Obama’s pastor at the Trinity United Church of Christ, Jeremiah Wright had named Louis Farrakhan “Man of the Year” in 2007.

Wright wrote that Farrakhan “truly epitomized greatness.”

Obama’s campaign released a statement from the senator earlier today.

“I decry racism and anti-Semitism in every form and strongly condemn the anti-Semitic statements made by Minister Farrakhan,” Obama said in the statement. “I assume that Trumpet Magazine made its own decision to honor Farrakhan based on his efforts to rehabilitate ex-offenders, but it is not a decision with which I agree.”

Cohen reported in the Post that Obama’s chief strategist, David Axelrod, had said that Obama and his minister disagree on many issues and Farrakhan was one of them.

However, in the Anglo eyes of many an American, extremist, and a man defined as Anti-Semite by groups such as the Anti-Defamation League, Louis Farrakhan and Barack do have one common bond besides the association with the Pastor, each is a darkly complexioned man in America.  That alone is enough to end a political career, let alone remind white Americans, this man cannot become President of the United States [and we would not want him to marry our sister.] Black Americans have been unable to ford this barrier.  An individual with hope cannot change what is . . .  at least that is the perception most Americans hold dear.

The accepted conviction is America needs an Administrator.  We must have an overseer, an authority figure to guide us.  When citizens select a President, we look for a known quantity, an established leader.  In this country, we have a history of elite rule and we are comfortable with the familiar.  Bill Clinton was thought exceptional for although he was a Rhodes Scholar, he was also a child of poverty.  Bill Clinton’s common roots and authentic comfort with people of color entitled him to the title of “The First Black President.”

When the Clinton’s were in the White House, Blacks were welcome.  They did not need to enter through the back door.  An invitation to be  part of society in a more real sense was appreciated.  No other President accepted Afro-Americans as Bill Clinton had.  The contrast between what had always been and what was in a Clinton Administration was great.

However, we must ponder; was the title bestowed, in part because those who never fully expected to see a Black man or woman in the Oval Office during the course of their lives, those who have been poor  and beaten-down for so long are grateful for small favors.  Black persons have seen the bottom.  Thus, even a small step above the bedrock seemed to be sky-high.  

Might we consider the more drastic change that occurred with thanks to a man with a dream.  While Marin Luther King Junior may not have signed the papers that allowed for a freedom Black Americans had never known, without his efforts, without his will, without the masses that followed his lead, no President would have dared to move the mountain that obstructed our unified view of what could be accomplished.

President Lyndon Baines Johnson would never have thought to do as he did.  Bill Clinton could not have conceived of the possibilities, unless or until Doctor King and millions of Americans with hope in their hearts had gathered together to shatter the notion that Black persons would silently serve as economic slaves to the white masters.

After the Hillary Clinton declaration one of those instruments of change, who served the people in a practical manner, a man who marched for civil rights, and did more to create equality than Bill Clinton might have spoke on the topic, now re-titled taboo.  Cleveland Sellers, heads the department of African-American studies at the University of South Carolina, is an Obama supporter, and a veteran of the civil rights movement.  When asked how he felt after hearing Hillary Clinton’s comment, he offered why he did not believe she felt his pain.

During the New Hampshire primary battle, Hillary Clinton made a comment about Martin Luther King that seemed, at first anyway, to diminish his role in the civil rights battle in relation to that of President Lyndon Johnson. She quickly clarified those remarks and re-emphasized the accomplishments of King, but how has that played in South Carolina??

That created some real problems, because it was an indication of a kind of insensitivity.  For a veteran of the civil rights movement-and that’s what I am-it wasn’t just Dr. King, it was all of the unsung heroes and heroines of that era. Modjeska Simkins here in South Carolina, and the Fannie Lou Hamers, and the children in Birmingham, and the people who rode the freedom buses and went to Mississippi in the summer of 1964 … All of these people created the climate in which Congress felt the pressure and acted.

Mister Sellers was not the only one to express his displeasure.  Prominent persons, radio professionals, and elected officials were disenchanted.  The Clinton charm wore thin in contrast to the coldness of a claim.

In South Carolina, scene of a key showdown on January 26, where half the Democratic electorate are African Americans, black radio hosts have expressed outrage over Mrs Clinton’s remark. Now one of the state’s most influential black congressmen is hinting that he might endorse Mr Obama.

He said he was angered by what he claims were dismissive comments about Martin Luther King by Mrs Clinton. Aides to Mr Obama, who hopes to become America’s first black president, are also accusing Bill Clinton of being racially insensitive when he said in New Hampshire last week that Mr Obama’s campaign was a “fairytale.”

James Clyburn, the highest-ranking African American in Congress and a veteran of the civil rights movement, referred to a comment made by Mrs Clinton on Monday, the day before her stunning comeback in New Hampshire set up a brutal nomination battle with Mr Obama. . . .

Mrs Clinton has since tried to clarify the comment, but the damage was done.  Mr Clyburn, who had previously said that he would stay neutral, told The New York Times that he had been “bothered a great deal” by the remarks and was rethinking his position..

Even amongst the electorate, there is much clamor.  In South Carolina, there is ample concern for the Clinton comment.  For some, Martin Luther King was able to deliver the dream, and did far more than Bill Clinton might have.  The monetary gains, while great could not have been realized without the dreamer who helped millions to believe, to speak out, and who worked to ensure the invisible people were seen.

Mac’s on Main is a popular soul food restaurant in South Carolina’s capital, Columbia. It is run by chef and City Councilman Barry Walker. The walls are decorated with signed, framed photos of blues greats like B.B. King and laminated maps of his council district. Walker is undecided but said he is unhappy with the direction the Clinton campaign has taken.

“I think they are going for broke now, going for whatever they can do,” he said.

Referring to an incident on the eve of the New Hampshire primary in which Clinton became teary-eyed while speaking to voters, Walker said, “crying isn’t going to help here.”

“She can cry all she wants, (but) black people have been crying for years. What’s going to help here is addressing the issues that are affecting us,” he said.

Joseph Free of Columbia, who was dining at the restaurant, agreed.

“They (are) … getting into the part I was hoping wouldn’t happen … (turning) the thing into a race problem,” he said.

Free’s comments reflect a kind of collective disappointment in the black community, according to Todd Shaw, a political science professor at the University of South Carolina.

“I think that African-American voters are wise in the sense that they know there is more to come. That is the fear,” he said.

Once again, apprehension triumphs.  Just as Americans accept that we must do all that we can to protect ourselves from those our leaders call foreign enemies, citizens embrace an agenda that allows us to eliminate discussion about the enemy within, racism.  

Senators Clinton and Obama decided that talk of the divide between Anglos and Afro-Americans would not be healthy.  They mutually adopted a truce to protect Americans from themselves.  The two candidates have elected to continue as they had.  Distractions dominate the campaigns.  Americans continue to engage as Wall Street Journal Columnist Phillips did.  As a country, we consider the most pertinent questions, the ones we ponder each day without prodding.

Will Barack Obama’s past drug use preclude a White House future?  Will Christian conservatives forgive Rudy Giuliani his two divorces?  Will voters forgive Hillary Clinton for forgiving Bill?

And what exactly did Democratic candidate Dennis Kucinich see hovering above actress Shirley MacLaine’s house 25 years ago?

Could Dennis Kucinich, or any other human being, have seen the least likely unidentified object in the political skies, a truce between the two most prominent Presidential candidates, a permanent cease-fire. He could have as could we.  In Presidential politics, as on the streets of America, we do not speak of what is real.  Racism remains a staple in American society.  A Presidential aspirant who speaks of change through hope, is reminded of the fact that we must do as always has been done. Experience teaches us, a white person with a plan will always be more effective than a Black individual who can inspire others to dream.  

White persons want to suspend the storm, perhaps through eternity.  Black people, who know their place agree to simmer silently.  Few recall the words of the man who made a difference.  It was not President Johnson who motivated millions in droves.  Nor did Bill Clinton truly change conditions for the people of color.  It was Martin who refused to remain silent.  The message Reverend and Doctor Martin Luther King Junior carried throughout the country and into Washington District of Columbia advanced why we see today, Blacks and whites working together to bring about equality.

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.

~ Martin Luther King, Junior [Civil Rights Leader

“I Have a Dream.” I Speak of it.  Do You?  . . . .

Jena Six. Justice: Permission Granted. Judgment: Permission Denied

copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

Please listen to the audio presentation.  Interviews Tell Tales. Jena Six: Black Students Charged w/Attempted Murder

I am thankful, not for the strife, the situation, or the state of affairs in Jena, Louisiana.  I am grateful for the discussion, the focus on what for too long remains beneath the surface.  For weeks, race relations, a topic conveniently hidden, is in the news again.  I think this inconvenient truth must be made visible if we are to move beyond the bigotry that is America’s signature.

The Jena Six, a group of young Black students in a small southern town, were severely punished by the Courts for possible participation in a schoolyard brawl.  One of many unfair judgments was overturned, and some Americans rejoiced.  Others understood the deeper dilemma.  Conversations commenced.  Protests are planned.  All that is good.

However, what is not wonderful and brings me no joy is what I fear, the outcome.  Americans seem frozen in time.  I believe the plague that permeates American society will survive.

Supremacy sickens me.  Preeminence is, for me, the profound issue.  While many claim in this nation no one race feels a sense of superiority over the another, there is ample evidence to suggest some do.  This story may speak to the situation; it is one of many that occur daily in this country.  Any of us whose skin is light may wish to deny it, but ask a Black friend or neighbor, if you have one.
Days ago, after a too long delayed mass media coverage, the narrative immerged again.  This time the spotlight fell on the Bayou State.  The subject of white rule and the inevitable result, Black rebellion, became more public.  The details buried in local news and neighborhoods for close to a year, came to the surface.

Last September, a black high school student requested the school’s permission to sit beneath a broad, leafy tree in the hot schoolyard.  Until then, only white students sat there.

The next morning, three nooses were hanging from the tree.  The black students responded en masse.  Justin Purvis, the kid who first sat under the tree, told filmmaker Jacquie Soohen: “They said, ‘Y’all want to go stand under the tree?’  We said, ‘Yeah.’  They said, ‘If you go, I’ll go.  If you go, I’ll go.’  One person went, the next person went, everybody else just went.”

Then the police and the district attorney showed up.  Substitute teacher Michelle Rogers recounts: “District Attorney Reed Walters proceeded to tell those kids that ‘I could end your lives with the stroke of a pen.'”

Indeed, the District Attorney proceeded to do as he threatened.  The town’s people stood by.  As bad went to worse.  Injustice piled onto injustice garnered the attention of a public reluctant to accept what is standard in this country.  Racism is rampant.

I believe we must ask ourselves, why in America, or anywhere else on this Earth, might someone feel a need to ask for permission to sit under a tree on public property.  I believe that aspect of this narrative alone is, dreadful.  When a source of beauty, light, and the symbol for life is designated “For Whites Only,” this says more than my heart can bear.  I do not solely struggle with the age of the defendant, the criminal charges, the beating or battering of individuals, white or black.  For me, the greater concern, the one that causes me to weep is what is often forgotten in news reports.

In this country, citizens are reticent to admit to their own bigotry.  White citizens gleefully claim this nation is colorblind.  However, if you are Black, step back.  If you are Brown, get down.  On the ground you go.  Pick the crops, or scrub the floors, just do not sit under that tree.

Details differ each time we open our eyes, nonetheless, the saga is the same.  Whites want what they want when and how they want it.  If Blacks dare to threaten the delicate “balance,” even if they ask permission to walk on the path Caucasians occupy, crosses are burned, nooses hung from trees, and the violence unfolds.

People are injured.  Some enter prison.  No matter the circumstance, whites fare far better than Blacks.  On each occasion, when Blacks and whites meet, the question of fairness fills the air.  Individuals and families question the fairness of a judicial decision.  Slowly, over time, the word spreads; yet, the actual situation is hushed.

As I listen to discussion after discussion I am haunted by the fact that in most reports Journalists, Civil Rights Leaders, historians, literary agents, the little guy or gal on the street, or even the victims themselves dismiss what for me is most daunting.  People, Black or White, Yellow or Brown, Red or Green, felt a need to ask for permission to sit under a tree.

It is as though even nature is restricted.  “For Whites Only” signs settles into every nuance of life.  On September 7, 2007, the story broke throughout the land.  I listened to the tale on the radio as I arose that morning.  I was grateful.  National Public Radio shared the scandalous drama and made mention of what for me was the essence of the yarn.

[T]he black students who sat under the tree had asked the principal’s permission to do so.

The account I heard told on that date, addressed more of the significant minutiae people rather discuss.  How old was Mychal Bell?  Might he have been tried as a juvenile?  How badly was Justin Barker, a white student beaten.  White students were not as severely punished as Black learners were?  All this is true, pertinent, and imperative.  We must thrash out each and every aspect of this case.

Yet, if we focus on the symptoms and miss the essence, I believe this scenario will be as similar occurrences in the past, a missed opportunity.  The plight of the Jena Six will be over another lesson unlearned.

As the coverage increases, and I read more reports, I am reminded of what we wish to forget.  Days turn to night.  I watch and listen.  Television Journalists clamor.  Pundits shout.  Social Scientists prophesize.  Average people predict.  Presidential candidates weigh in.  Harvard Law School Professor Charles Ogletree, an advisor to the defendants in the Jena Six case speaks.  He too is frustrated by what society forgets.

Collins: And our Sean Callebs is joining us now live this morning from Jena, Louisiana.  So, Sean, we saw a little bit of a reaction from people who live in the area. Overall, how do they think this whole process has gone so far?

Callebs: Well, we went to a fair that was held here in Jena over the weekend and we probably tried to talk to 30 people on camera. Only one would speak with us. Many of them unsolicited would actually say to us, you know what, we didn’t think that Mychal Bell should have been tried as an adult to begin with, but we’re really upset at what they view as outside agitation. Meaning the media coming in, focusing attention on this, and to a big — in a big way, the civil rights demonstrations planned here. 

To show you the kind of press this is getting, this is the local paper. This is the big headline, “Jena prepares to rally.” This is this morning. And if you look down here, about three column inches is the O.J. story. So, it really puts the Jena 6 story in perspective in this community. And quickly, a couple of points. We did have a chance to speak with the D.A.’s office and so far the D.A. has not re-filed charges in juvenile court and there’s been no movement on a bond hearing for Mychal Bell.

Collins: All right, Sean, we’re glad you’re there following that one for us out of Jena, Louisiana.  Sean Callebs, thank you.  Want to talk a little bit more about this morning with Harvard Law School Professor Charles Ogletree. He’s an advisor to the defendants in the Jena 6 case.  Thanks for being with us, Mr. Ogletree.  We know there’s a hearing going on right now, on whether or not the judge in this case should actually recuse himself. Your thoughts on that.

Charles Ogletree, Harvard Law School: Well, there are a lot of reasons the judge should recuse himself. And this criminal justice case has been a colossal failure of justice for these young men. The judge has made mistakes in allowing the charges to go forward. Having this man in jail since last year, Mychal Bell.  And now the appeals court’s involved in it.  So this is a case that was waiting to have some fresh air and publicity. I think now it’s very likely this D.A. will try to re- bring these charges. And I hope it means that these other young men will be tried as they should be tried, a schoolyard brawl with a suspension, not federal — not serious felony charges.

Collins: You do think it’s unlikely that D.A. Walters will move forward? 

Ogletree: One of the problems that the D.A. in this case has been pointing fingers at these young black men since the schoolyard incidents. We forget there were nooses hung in a tree. We forget an African-American male in that community was hit on the head with a beer bottle. We forget that a gun was drawn on one of these young men.

There’s a whole series of failures of the system. And I think the district attorney is being watched nationally. The judge is being watched nationally. Some good lawyers are being brought into the case now. And I hope that these young men will not only avoid criminal charges, but they’ll be back in school before this year is out.

Collins: I don’t think everybody forgets about the way that this whole case started, certainly with the nooses.  But let me ask you this, your defendant not being tried in an adult court now, possibly as we’ve said, going to juvenile court system, how will that change things for him? 

Ogletree: Well, it will change dramatically. First of all, the lawyer who represented him before did a poor job of challenging the government’s evidence.  Didn’t call any witnesses. Didn’t investigate the case.  And now, hopefully, a judge, a juvenile court judge, will be able to listen to the evidence dispassionately, hear Mychal Bell’s defense and come back with the judgment of not responsible in the juvenile terms. So I think it’s going to make a huge difference.  But the most important thing is that he should be released.

There’s no reason he should be in jail now having been found not guilty not guilty of some charges, having had some reversed, and facing no charges right now. I think he should be released.  And that might change the whole method of this case as well. 

Collins: You know, you have to wonder as you watch sort of the process and the way that this story developed, if there was any responsibility that should have been placed on the adults in this case. The adults at the school. People in the community to help sort of diffuse tensions between the kids at the school before it got to this point.

Ogletree: Well, I think Jena never imagined that this case would have the national, international attention it has generated. They never imagined that you’d see civil rights leader, national press coming and watching. And if you look at the school board, which revoked — reversed the principal’s decision to punish those who hung nooses in the tree, if you look at the apathy of the community when these black kids complained about being treated differently, adults played a significant role.  And adults are going to have to cure it.

If they don’t think there’s a problem of race in Jena, they’re not living in the 21st century. And I think hopefully the good news is that black and white families will come together, live together and they’ll be a positive result after this case is resolved, hopefully in the next couple of months.

Collins: Yes, we certainly hope so. All right. We’ll continue to follow this story as always right here on CNN.  Charles Ogletree of Harvard Law School, thanks for your time this morning. 

Ogletree: Thank you.

While Harvard Professor Ogletree and Cable News Network Broadcaster Heidi Collins remember the specifics, they too forget what for me is most telling.  Why might a young man or woman enrolled in school need to ask for permission to sit under a tree on campus.  In a country with a Constitution that decries “All men are created equal,” why would any of us feel compelled to request consent to place ourselves in the shade of an olive branch, an oak bough, a maple limb that quietly graces the grounds of our school.  Yet, in America, Black students know what Caucasians shutter to confess.  People are separate, separated, and treated as though they are not equal.
African Americans, Negroes are regarded as inferior.  They are wanted only to serve the needs of those that think them selves supreme.  We have not progressed much beyond the days of Reconstruction. 

As the citizens of Jena prepare for trial and for a protest, Confederate flags fly.  Symbols of support for slavery fill the air.  Authentic conversation is stifled.  We wish to think that there has been a change.  Some muse drastic measures have been taken.  Today, Americas Black citizens are free.  In a democracy, we question justice and work for civil liberties.  However, as long as a Black person, man, woman, or child senses he or she must seek approval to sit and enjoy the serenity of a tree, nothing has changed.  Nothing will.  Circumstances may be different.  The dynamics are not.  When Black congregate where whites wish to be the principle is fight or flight.

Update:  The rally is realized.  Thousands of people from throughout the country came to stand in support of the Jena Six.  Civil Rights leaders cry out; justice for Black citizens is not comparable to what whites experience.  The standards are dissimilar.  The dilemma is, even as all of America watched and witnessed what occurred in Jena today, for the most part, the townspeople did not.  Many or most denied there is a problem in Jena.  Citizens of this small community felt as though they were singled out.

It must be said that it is a far different story for this town of Jena, Louisiana, 85 percent white, 15 percent black.  Many of the white residents feel that this town has been descended upon, it has been portrayed in an unfair light.  They remind us again — they remind us again that there was a victim.  There was a victim in that December 4th attack, is how they term it, an attack in that school, Jena High School, where the march is ultimately going to lead and end up. 

Many white persons involved in the incident were not willing to speak on camera.  Cable News Network asked public officials to share their perspective of the Jena Six story.  However, while invitations were extended, replies were not received.  Journalist Tony Harris, spoke from Jena, Louisiana and stated . . .

I just want to make the point, again and again and again, we have tried diligently to get the other view of this story from [District Attorney] Reed Walters, tried to get him here today.  We tried to get him on the program yesterday.  We also tried to get Murphy McMillan, who is the mayor of Jena, to join us to talk about this case and the impact on his community.  And we’ve been unsuccessful.  We will continue to make those calls and try to get them on the program with us from Jena.

Those that did speak were friends, family, and others familiar with the pain of being Black in Jena, the misery of being Black in America.  We must understand that this is not unique to the South.  Subtle or subterranean as it may be, if your skin is dark and you live in the United States, life is not cozy, comfortable, or commonsensical.  Appearances are often nothing more than the adjustments made in an unjust society.  Perhaps, others said this better than I.  I invite your review of the rally.

Thousands Rally in Louisiana to Support ‘Jena 6’
By Peter Whoriskey and William Branigin
Washington Post. 
Thursday, September 20, 2007; 3:46 PM

JENA, La., Sept. 20 — Traveling in caravans of buses and cars, thousands of demonstrators from across the nation converged Thursday on this rural town riven by racial discord to protest what they view as the excessively harsh prosecution of six black high school students charged with beating a white classmate unconscious.

Spurred by radio hosts, the Rev. Al Sharpton and other African American figures, the mostly black crowd chanted, “Free the Jena Six,” and, “Enough is enough.”

Organizers said the vast turnout, reminiscent of the civil rights demonstrations of the 1960s, represented a broader protest against what many blacks see as unfair treatment in courts across the country.

“There’s Jenas in Atlanta, there’s Jenas in New York, there’s Jenas in Florida, and there are Jenas all over Texas,” Sharpton told a raucous crowd Thursday morning.  “This is the beginning of the 21st Century civil rights movement.”

Suggesting that racism in the United States has become more sophisticated since the days of Jim Crow, Sharpton added, “We come to Jena to face James Crow, Jr., Esquire.”

Also on hand were Martin Luther King III, son of the slain civil rights leader, and the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who complained that “the Department of Justice in Washington has gone silent” on the situation in Jena.

“We need federal intervention,” Jackson told the demonstrators, many of them clad in black to show their solidarity.  He called for “hearings on the matter of criminal justice in Jena” and other towns across the nation.  “There is a Jena everywhere,” Jackson said.  “In Louisiana, Jena is just a biopsy of the cancer.”

King said some punishment may be in order for the six defendants but that “the justice system isn’t applied the same to all crimes and all people.”

Apparently, fairness, righteousness, and the characteristics that define equality are not bestowed upon all in a similar manner.  If you are Black, in America, get back.  The front of the line, the shade of a tree, the sanctity of a schoolyard, are not for you. Nature, as all else that is truly beautiful in this land is labeled, “For Whites Only.”

References to Racism, Jena Six . . .

  • Case of ‘Jena Six’ Tears at Small Town’s Harmony.  Morning Edition.  National Public Radio.  September 7, 2007
  • CNN Newsroom Transcripts. September 17, 2007
  • La. Town Fells ‘White Tree,’ but Tension Runs Deep, Black Teens’ Case Intensifies Racial Issues. By Darryl Fears.  Washington Post.?Saturday, August 4, 2007; Page A03
  • pdf La. Town Fells ‘White Tree,’ but Tension Runs Deep, Black Teens’ Case Intensifies Racial Issues. By Darryl Fears.  Washington Post.?Saturday, August 4, 2007; Page A03
  • CNN Transcripts. Cable News Network. September 20, 2007
  • Thousands Rally in Louisiana to Support ‘Jena 6.’ By Peter Whoriskey and William Branigin. Washington Post. Thursday, September 20, 2007; 3:46 PM
  • Supreme Court Rules; Brown Versus Board of Education Reversed

    Affirmative Action: Separate But Equal

    copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

    It is official Brown versus Board of Education has been reversed.  Providing equal education opportunities to all children, regardless of race, color, or creed is no longer a priority.  The 1954 Court decision that invalidated the principle of ‘separate but equal’ was overturned on June 28, 2007.  This day will live in infamy.  In another of the many recent 5 to 4 split decisions, the neoconservative Supreme Court canceled the promise made to students of color.

    School integration, which was once considered essential, as of today, is no longer practicable.  Perhaps, more accurately, the work needed to improve the quality of education for those living in impoverished areas was not pleasurable.  Now, efforts to unify schools need not continue.  Endeavors to integrate are illegal.

    Today’s Supreme Court ruling, Parents Involved In Community Schools v. Seattle School District Number 1 et al. has basically nullified the construct of racial equality in the schools.  According to the majority, Affirmative Action is no longer thought just.  The conservative Justices deemed this principle an illogical inconvenience.  The Judges in the majority stated students in white enclaves or Black must travel too far to ensure equal access to quality schools.  Justice Roberts declared.

    The districts ”failed to show that they considered methods other than explicit racial classifications to achieve their stated goals.”

    Perhaps, the school system did not demonstrate a means for combating what is the convention. Schools do not have the power to force people to integrate their local neighborhoods.

    Educational institutions are not able dictate who lives in what community.  After receiving this ruling, Districts must relent, cease, and desist.  School Districts will not have the option to open enrollment to those that do not reside in their region.

    Oh, if they could; schools might possibly be given an opportunity to truly teach tolerance.  However, for now, that prospect is but a dream, one Martin Luther King hoped we would realize.

    I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

    I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

    I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

    I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

    I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

    I have a dream today.

    Sadly, the fantasy faded on this morning in June 2007.  The nightmare is vivid.  Facilitating awareness for diversity is a slow process, made more challenging when elders impose their preconceived notions on innocent children.  If we do not endure, then the forces of “evil,” malevolence will.

    As of June 28, 2007, this newly formed bias will be built into the laws governing school enrollment.  The likelihood is bigotry will  flourish.  Culture clashes are now legal and encouraged by the dominant neoconservative  Supreme Court.

    Thankfully, there was vocal dissent. Justice Stephen Breyer, ardently voiced his concern; however muted in its effect on the final decision.  In his fervent appeal Breyer offered.

    Roberts’ opinion undermined the promise of integrated schools that the court laid out 53 years ago in its landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education.

    ”To invalidate the plans under review is to threaten the promise of Brown.’

    Justices Breyer went on to express his fury over the fallacy that is now prominent in the Court records.  In commenting on the opinion expressed by the Chief Justice Roberts, that the white students who didn’t get the school of their choice in Louisville and Seattle were equivalent to the black students in Brown versus Board of Education who were denied access to integrated schools in Topeka, Kansas, Justice Stephen Breyer forcefully spoke with some restraint stating . . .

    “You have got to be kidding me, that the efforts in good faith of these schools in Louisville and Seattle to integrate their schools, to make sure that there’s diversity, how dare you compare that to the discrimination of Jim Crow?”

    Nonetheless, it happened.  The words were uttered and the wheels of derision were set more deeply into the structure of society.

    Division may have been the original intent of this Court.  The rulings delivered in this past week would indicate that the Supreme Court is definitively split.  The Conservative Jurists have no intention of seeking unity.  However, whether that is the actual goal long-term is unclear, as much is in this Court.  Chief Justice Roberts declared.

    “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discrimination on the basis of race,” he wrote

    Apparently, we are to believe that in our attempt to reverse centuries of racial prejudice, which in my mind equates to fear of the unknown, stranger anxiety, or xenophobia, segregation must stand.  Humans will validate their reasons for racial discrimination characterizing these as the “natural.”  The unequal “process of selection” is firmly planted in the minds of many and as of this day mandated by the courts.

    It is quite ironic to this author; as we philosophically battle against the idea of ethnic cleansing elsewhere, we here in America are proud to adopt policies that promote it.  We honor division in our local communities, and presently, with the Courts blessing.

    Perhaps, that has always been the truer agenda.  In placing the newest neoconservative members to the Court, we have awarded lifetime positions of extreme power, to those that practice the policy of “Divide and Conquer.”  It seems some of the standing Justices already accepted the notion of separation as truth. Notably, Justice Clarence Thomas.  This Jurist stated his belief; separation is inevitable.

    “Simply putting students together under the same roof does not necessarily mean that the students will learn together or even interact. Furthermore, it is unclear whether increased interracial contact improves racial attitudes and relations.”

    Perchance, the evidence is ambiguous because Affirmative Action rules, those that advance unity have not been fully embraced or enacted.  Thus, we have this Court case and the oft-repeated belief of Justice Thomas Affirmative Action does nothing to help the disenfranchised.?  Judge Thomas has faith that is was the goodness of one insightful, intelligent, and intuitive individual that altered his life, Father Brooks.  In a March 12, 2007 interview Justice Thomas recounted his tale of trials and tribulations.

    Why is Father Brooks such an important person in your life?

    That was an era of in loco parentis. It was a transition period unlike today when you have these notions of race entrenched. It was a time, actually, when there was no set road map for kids. Father Brooks understood something intuitively, that we were just kids. He knew we were from a lot of different environments.

    Father Brooks made a point of trying to recruit a lot more African Americans to campus in the months before you came. Do you think that recruitment drive helped you?

    Oh no. I was going to go home to Savannah when a nun suggested Holy Cross. That’s how I wound up there. Your industry has suggested that we were all recruited. That’s a lie. Really, it’s a lie. I don’t mean a mistake. It’s a lie.

    I had always been an honors student. I was the only black kid in my high school in Savannah and one of two or three blacks in my class during my first year of college in the seminary. I just transferred. I had always had really high grades so that was never a problem. It was the only school I applied to. It was totally fortuitous. The thing that has astounded me over the years is that there has been such an effort to roll that class into people’s notion of affirmative action. It was never really looked at. It was just painted over. Things were much more nuanced than that?.You hear this junk. It’s just not consistent with what really happened.

    What did Father Brooks do?

    Father Brooks realized that we needed to be nurtured not that we needed it every day but that we were going to have unique problems. When you have six blacks in a class of 550 kids, you need that. We all came from very different backgrounds. That’s something that gets lost in this weird notion of race that somehow you can come from New York and Savannah and Massachusetts and somehow you’re still all the same. That’s bizarre, and it denigrates individuals.

    Father Brooks understood that. He saw people who were individuals who happened to be black who had very different outlooks.

    Might we ask what will become of those that do not have a Father Brooks.  Will they feel as young Clarence Thomas did before he was given the gift that Affirmative Action provides to those without a mentor, as the youthful scholar felt when he first arrived at Holy Cross college?

    I was a kid. I was confused. I was 20 years old. I had no place to go. I had no precedent for anybody going to college. I had no precedent for anybody being in New England. I had no road map. I didn’t know anybody to call. I had nobody to talk to. I had nobody to give me advice. Now, what do you do? You were just a kid, trying to make all these choices.

    Were you angry?

    Sure. I was upset. I was upset with a lot of things. You get there and you sort it out. Look at that neighborhood there [Thomas points to a photo of a desolate strip in Georgia]. How do you go from that to Holy Cross? How do you do it? That’s why some of us were really concerned about throwing some of these kids into those environments without thinking because you have a theory. That’s the neighborhood I lived in before I went to live with my grandparents. Doesn’t look very good, does it?

    There were a lot of changes to absorb. Just to think about it was fatiguing. It’s still really fatiguing. It’s also fatiguing that people assume we all showed up the same. A friend of mine sent me that print there. [A sketch of an African American man, draped over a desk with his hands extended toward the floor.] He has since passed away. He thought it captured my life.

    Does it?

    Oh yeah. That’s why I keep it there. Look at the hand. Look at the exhaustion.

    What sort of exhaustion?

    Everything. Mental. Physical. Spiritual. Just constant change. You just want to slow down. You see people take a walk and you want to, too.

    Mental, physical, spiritual exhaustion, exasperation, this is the legacy that we as a nation are leaving our children of lesser means.  A person can only live without hope for so long.  As the rich become richer and the impoverished plunge further into forced ignorance we can expect that this emotional fatigue will be felt by all of us.

    Perhaps, we, as a country, by promoting principles that further division will experience what comes when the classes are truly separate and far from equal.  Once again, we may witness what comes when people are [class] war weary.  Possibly, rebellion will be the result.  I trust in time revulsion will turn into rage, and why not.  Deep division breeds revolution.

    In just a few short years the craftsman President George W. Bush has created such strife abroad.  Civil War in Iraq is invasive.  With his recent appointments to the Supreme Court Mister Bush has secured the eventual possibility here at home.  If not Civil War, certainly civil unrest may become our shared truth.  Inequitable change often causes conflict.

    This President, master of the message George W. Bush has definitely advanced imbalance.  Most of us accept that President Bush has altered world politics with precision.  He has done so with expediency.  It seems this world leader has not ignored the domestic front.  His appointments have altered the face of the Supreme Court.  The newer members serve to accelerate the schism.  Justice Stephen Breyer may have said it best.

    “Never in the history of the court have so few done so much so quickly.”

    Indeed we as a nation are deeply divided.  We have reason to expect that soon Civil War, will be here.  It is the natural outgrowth of a society divided.  I can only ask that we remember the words of many and take these to heart.

    United we stand; divided we fall.

    ~ Benjamin Franklin, John Dickinson,  Abraham Lincoln

    Sources for the Misnomer, Segregation is superior? . . .

    We Are All Born Free and Equal. We Have Rights.


    Youth For Human Rights – We Are All Born Free & Equal

    © copyright 2007 Betsy L. Angert.

    This tiny introductory treatise is written as an apology.  Belatedly, I was informed that, unintentionally, and might I add unknowingly, I penned a persuasive piece that advances the cause of an “applied religious philosophy.”  After viewing the most glorious video presentation, I inscribed what was thought to be a global truth; “We all have rights, equally.”  I still endorse that message; however, I do not embrace the practices or philosophies of an organization that on occasions is divisive.  Sadly, I experience most assemblages are.

    I am a very spiritual soul.  I trust that man is basically good.  For me, there is no sin, only a slow evolution.  As we walk on our life path we error, repeatedly, and frequently.  However, humans have the capacity to learn.  That is our blessing.  As we travel the planet and experience a physical existence, we realize there is more.  Earth is as a school.  We are here to study.  We reflect.  We ask ourselves, what have we done.  What will our actions cause?  Ultimately, we understand that we can change what comes and what will be.  Free will follows us and leads us on this journey.

    As a pious person, I am overwhelmed by the duplicity of organized religion.  People of one religious faith or another war and have for centuries.  I do not understand this.  Rigid religious affiliations are not mine.

    After ample research, I have come to believe that all religions value similar “truths.”  Honor, love, respect, peace among men is the foundation of every faith.  Yet, nevertheless, people battle.  They have for centuries.  It seems few if any flock is exempt.

    Some conflicts ignite solely on the basis of religious differences.  Much of what we witness in parts of the Middle East can be correlated to differences among congregations.  One faction or another will fight to the death for their idea of the ideal, G-d.  People pose as though they are holier than thou.

    My belief is religious “realities” are neither right, nor reasonable; these traditions rely on our ability to suspend belief.  Blind faith in an external force determines what congregations think.

    Alas, religion is not the only source of derision.  Race, ethnicity, creed, hair color, age, body type, even food choices divide us.  I am often slammed and damned for I do not eat meat.

    Nonetheless, I submit to you the essay that prompted a sorrowful reflection.  My intent to was not promote a way of life or advance a particular “applied religious philosophy.”  I genuinely hoped to further the assurance “All men are created equal.”  My desire continues.  Perhaps we can communicate a message of love without religious convictions. 

    Please ponder; reflect upon the paradox.  As humans, we agree; we are born free and equal.  We each have rights.  Love, peace, parity among [wo]men is vital.  Yet, we argue.  We are split.  We divide. 

    May we contemplate the concept and honor as we claim to believe.  I present the original observation . . .

    At times, verbiage enhances the visual.  A photograph may fill the screen and our hearts; however, the words whispered as an accompaniment makes the message more meaningful.  I believe the essence of a communication can be captivating.  It can cause us to cry.  It may touch our soul.  Perhaps it will help us to think more deeply.  When the verbal expressions advance the beauty of a presentation, that is glorious. 

    Consider the times you saw an individual.  You observed the image he or she presented.  Then they spoke seriously.  This being shared his or her soul, their life story.  Their words wowed you.  They warmed your heart.  The spoken language clarified, it corrected a misimpression.  Your heart and mind opened.  What you thought you knew was not as it appeared to be.

    In this production, the gentle language helps us to remember the innate longing for equality.  The reflective nature encourages conscious thought.  We cannot avoid what we know. Throughout the globe, we witness injustice, and there is no reason for such divisiveness.

    We are born innocent, without hatred or bigotry.  However, we learn.

    As our faces age and harden, so too do our hearts.  Naiveté is fleeting.  Purity fades too fast.  Goodness does not leave our body; the flood of hurts cause great harm.  We forget.  Virtue is still within.  Might we discover it again through empathy.

    We are all born free, equal among men, women, and children.  Each of us has rights, for we exist.  Dignity is due to us all.

    Please embrace the avowal and the endeavors of Youth For Human Rights International.  My hope is their mission will be ours.  Worldwide and individually, we will actively acknowledge the value of every entity.

    Do you know what Human Rights are?

    Every person is entitled to certain rights – simply by the fact that they are a human being.  They are “rights” because they are things you are allowed to be, to do, or to have.  These rights are there for your protection against people who might want to harm or hurt you.  They are also there to help us get along with each other and live in peace.

    Many people know something about their rights.  They know they have a right to be paid for the work they do and they have a right to vote.  But there exist many other rights.

    When human rights are not well known by people, abuses such as discrimination, intolerance, injustice, oppression, and slavery can arise.

    Born out of the atrocities and enormous loss of life during World War II, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was created by the United Nations to provide a common understanding of what everyone’s rights are.  It forms the basis for a world built on freedom, justice, and peace.

    In my family voices were not raised loudly.  Slight tonal changes spoke volumes.  A look could cut through the skin.  When my Mom felt hurt, she made this known.  She voiced the statement, “I have rights.”  We all do.  Yet, at times these are denied us. 

    Another righteous soul might react in a manner that suggests they are superior.  Their behaviors seem sanctimonious.  Often, this smug attitude is a reflection of fear; nevertheless, such an approach creates havoc.  People are hurt.  Relationships are harmed.  Often, these do not recover.

    When we witness contempt, or recognize that we are engaging in a way that disrespects another, we must recall, “What we do unto others will be done unto us.” 

    Human rights, civil rights must be granted to us all if we are to live in peace and harmony.  Wars do not just happen people start them.  If I aggress against my brethren, I can expect he will attack me.

    Poverty is not a given; it is a man-made construct.  Man learns to set limits. If I hoard, I ignore the needs of my fellow man.  If I hold on too tightly to all that is mine, I can gather no more.  My hands are full; I do not have the capacity to grasp what is beyond.

    Discrimination is deliberate.  I choose to determine whether race, sex, religion, or status matters.

    Please be aware of what you, he, she, I, or we cause.  Consider what you, he, she, I, or we create when we do not honor every human being equally.  Look upon your brother and your sister as a child would before they learn to hate.  They have a right to be, just as you, I, or we do.

    Clinton Speaks of Civil Rights, Voting Rights, Not of War

    © copyright 2007 Betsy L. Angert

    Dearest Hillary . . .

    Your speech at the First Baptist Church in Selma, Alabama  moved me.  The words, as written are glorious.  I cried as I listened to the sentiments; “It matters.”  Yet, I am conflicted.  The issues you mentioned are important.  I trust you care for your countrymen and women.  Those of color are no less significant to you than their white counterparts are.  I believe you too work to defend the rights of the impoverished.  Still, I struggle.  I have done so for days.  I meant to share my thoughts with you alone, for Hillary, you were the object of my renewed realization.  However, finally, I recognized that I am not equating your contrary views to a personal biased bigotry.  I am speaking to all Americans that think combat cures all or any ills.  Thus, I publish this treatise, a letter to you, or perchance to all of us.  I offer possibilities, probabilities that we all might wish to contemplate.

    If we are to improve conditions for every American, then we must acknowledge the war that you, and others endorse, an escalation of troops in Afghanistan, will likely not be possible.  Perchance we might ponder the purpose of war and the results reaped from all this fighting.  That discussion will wait for another writing.

    We cannot claim to believe in equality when we understand the means for manning the military.  When war is thought to be an option, even our mission, we must consider whom we send into combat and why they are willing to go.  Admittedly, I believe war is never an alternative.  However, I accept that as long as others think combat is necessary, we must assess what we have created in order to fight our battles.  Who are the persons we send to war and why they are willing to go into combat.

    I surmise, as long as we, as a society, maintain the structure we have, sending more soldiers into hostile campaigns promotes the discrimination we claim to disdain.  Please breathe deeply; I am not meaning to give rise to a defensive stance.  I only wish to express what seems contradictory to me.  Our beliefs are often altruistic; our actions are far less so.

    Since early childhood I have wondered, why do we not send Heads-of-State to fight their own battles.  Possibly, these men [and women] are thought too frail.  Thus, I ask; why not send the offspring of government officials into combat, assuming the brood of such strident leaders boast as their parents do, “We must win in order to stay safe.”  I await that answer.

    Until then, I inquire.  Hillary please help me understand.  Knowing that you [many] wish to increase the troop force in Afghanistan, please tell me, where might these soldiers come from?  Why would these strong souls be willing to go into battle recognizing that they are placing their lives and limbs in jeopardy?  Do these soldiers not understand that they matter? 

    Perhaps, for them, patriotism is the guiding principle.  Might their nationalism be more central than their personal sacrifice?  I think at times such a construct may be valid; however, from my observations and discussions, particularly with Veterans, authentic altruism rarely involves putting ones life in danger.  Internal conflicts are characteristically more crucial.  Thus, I query.  What motivates the young to place themselves in precarious situations?

    As I assess recruitment practices and why the youth enlist, I realize the reason your sermon spoke to me.  If we apply the principles that you and other warmongers state they devoutly believe, then we will have no working Army, Navy, or Marines.  Ignoring the problems of the poor, the Black, and the Hispanic populations allows us to grow an infantry.  Denying people their Civil Rights and Voting Rights supplies us with a an Armed Force. 

    Our service men and women are typically underprivileged, impoverished, and disenfranchised.  Some are isolated, or in horrible life situations.  They are white and persons of color.  Skin color alone, can afford whites more rights.  However, money maximizes all possibilities.

    Many of today’s recruits are financially strapped, with nearly half coming from lower-middle-class to poor households, according to new Pentagon data based on Zip codes and census estimates of mean household income.  Nearly two-thirds of Army recruits in 2004 came from counties in which median household income is below the U.S. median.

    Such patterns are pronounced in such counties as Martinsville, Va., that supply the greatest number of enlistees in proportion to their youth populations.  All of the Army’s top 20 counties for recruiting had lower-than-national median incomes, 12 had higher poverty rates, and 16 were non-metropolitan, according to the National Priorities Project, a nonpartisan research group that analyzed 2004 recruiting data by Zip code.

    “A lot of the high recruitment rates are in areas where there is not as much economic opportunity for young people,” said Anita Dancs, research director for the NPP, based in Northampton, Mass.

    As you noted Hillary, those typically denied their rights are “the poor and people of color.”  Yet, you and I believe to our core, these people matter.  Still, current practices negate their significance.

    Granted, during peacetime the military makeup more closely mirrors the population.  After an attack on our nation, when patriotic gestures are popular, the elite think to serve with the fighting troops.  However, these times are few and fleeting.

    Hillary, as you so powerfully proclaimed, there is reason to question what is true for the Blacks, poor, and persons of color.  ‘It does matter’ or perchance not, depending on our priorities. 

    I think we, as a nation, must consider as long as Heads-of-State send the young and poor to fight their battles, they will continue to preserve a population that is both physically burly and profoundly in need of financial assistance.  If the youth are academically deprived, all the better.  With little education, and hardly any funds, adolescents have fewer options.  The underprivileged are ripe for military careers.  In the Armed Forces, a teenager or college age adult can secure a reasonably prosperous professional position.

    Senator Clinton, as you stated, we, as a country must address the reasons Afro-Americans are deprived of their rights.  We all know that people of color, are purposely prohibited from participating in elections.  Discrimination today differs; nevertheless, it still exists. 

    Accurate and complete information is not shared with those that need it most.  What is given is often sent belatedly.  When pamphlets are delivered in a timely manner the facts are frequently and intentionally in error. 

    Hillary, I concur.  Individuals are still turned away from the polls in America.  That is not “right.”  Afro-Americans and persons of color are more often the victims of what might be classified as a crime.  Disinformation also effects poor whites.  Although, disproportionately, Afro-Americans are affected.

    The US civil rights commission was yesterday investigating allegations by the BBC’s Newsnight that thousands of mainly black voters in Florida were disenfranchised in the November election because of wholesale errors by a private data services company.

    Information supplied by the company, Database Technologies (DBT), led to tens of thousands of Floridians being removed from the electoral roll on the grounds that they had felonies on their records.

    However, a Guardian investigation in December confirmed by Newsnight found that the list was riddled with mistakes that led to thousands of voters – a disproportionate number of them black – being wrongly disenfranchised.

    The scale of the errors, and their skewed effect on black, overwhelmingly Democratic voters, cost Al Gore thousands of votes in Florida in an election that George Bush won by just 537 votes.  Moreover the Florida state government, where Mr Bush’s brother Jeb is governor, did nothing to correct the errors, and may have encouraged them.

    This causes me to ask what I believe remains a burning question; why must we repeatedly reinstate the Voter’s Rights Act?  Is there a reason that this law is periodically scheduled to sunset?  I query.  Why is this Bill so easily threatened?  Might voters be guaranteed their rights, always? 

    Please tell me Hillary, or anyone; what ever happened to the idea that “all men are created equal?”  As a nation, we seem to be impressed with the words, and distressed with the possibility.  Senator Clinton, your own sermon calls this to mind again.  I appreciate your awareness and beg for your assistance.

    Senator Clinton, please realize and tell others to place this in the forefronts of their minds, people of color are not only misinformed and under-represented during election season.  Daily they feel stuck.  Perchance, they are. 

    Many live in the inner city, ghettos, and slums.  Schools in these neighborhoods are lacking.  Housing is poor.  Transportation is terrible.  Jobs close to home are nonexistent.  The availability and quality of careers in these locales is depressing.  Homicide is prevalent.  These communities are in chaos.  Too often, the streets are killing fields.  Reaching out and telling them you [we] understand is not enough.  They matter! 

    The Blacks, Hispanics, people of various colors, and the poor are significant not because they fight our battles or because they can cast a ballot for a Presidential candidate such as you.  They are vital because they are people, equal to us all.  I think we must show them that we care each day, not only on the anniversary of Bloody Sunday or in an election year.

    Our fellow countrymen and women must recognize that the right to vote is only one issue affecting the disenfranchised.  Poverty and loss of hope create an intolerable circumstance.  When joining the military merely means exchanging one battlefield for another, something is terribly wrong. 

    Senator Clinton, I do not want those with less influence and means to feel as though they must serve the military master in order to survive.  I have no desire to see people perish needlessly at home, in Iraq, or in Afghanistan.  I do not think you do either.

    You must know that Blacks [Hispanics, and others among the disadvantaged] feel forced to enlist in the Armed Forces.  The military will train them and pay them.  That matters! 

    Only recently, as the death tolls in Iraq and Afghanistan increase are the poor questioning the quality of life in the military service.  With the prospect of death looming large, they too are declining to join.  Perchance life matters more than a paycheck or schooling with strings attached.

    I think we must be honest and ask ourselves, how long will we maintain the fallacy ‘military men and women are committed to a cause.’  Does any one really believe that war works to the benefit of those thrown into battle.  Will we ever avow, most soldiers subscribe in order to survive.

    Hillary, the military that you and others so actively claim to support, cannot be the only viable means of income for our poor and alienated.  Yet, for many it is.  These persons cannot achieve as their Caucasian counterparts can.  Those with little, if any savings, need funds for a future education.  They are searching for something of value, something to hold on to.  The dominance of discrimination effects many decisions.

    An Armed Forces filled with those of lesser means and far less opportunities causes me great distress.  I do not believe we in America have a volunteer Army, Navy, or Marine Corps.  We have brigades comprised of the neglected.  I trust that this concerns you Missus Clinton.

    These men and women realize few rights; yet, they fight for yours, his, hers, and mine.  I often wonder; do the wealthy or well-off European descendents create an underclass to serve in their silly wars. 

    When assessing that more and more of the underclass are unwilling to go to battle, I realize I am grateful that at least they have that choice.  Apparently, after witnessing what is in Afghanistan and Iraq, those that once sought solace in the military accept serving this country may not serve them well.

    Hillary, as you stand before this mostly Black audience and claim to care, I wonder.  Do any of us demonstrate the concern we deeply feel?  Knowing what you [we] know, why would you [we] wish to escalate the troop level in Afghanistan or Iraq?  Please, help us to help ourselves; do not continue to exploit the unfortunate.  Let them live and vote.  Do not force the disadvantaged to meet their maker.  People of color need not pay for the sins of their white overseers.  People with few opportunities need not be cut down in their prime.  They matter!!!  These beings are more than future, fighting, or fallen soldiers.

    Realize those service personnel who do not die are likely to be severely injured.  The chances are high that all will experience some physical, mental, or emotional impairment.  Please let us all be principled in our support of our troops.

    Afro-Americans, Hispanics, and the disadvantaged matter not because they are potential or past soldiers.  They matter as all people do.  Veterans and civilians alike, matter.  Freedom and justice must prevail for all Americans. 

    I offer this supposition; would there be war if everyone was granted the respect they give their nation. 

    Fortunately for candidates such as you Senator Clinton, we will not know the answer to my question any time soon.  Change is exceedingly slow.  Those that are deprived of their Civil and Voting Rights will still be available to fight the war so many, too many candidates endorse.  Even those that do vote will not have the power they might.  In a culture where ‘follow the leader’ is thought fun or fruitful, few cast a ballot conscientiously.  Most follow the crowd.  How sad and how true.

    Senator Clinton, next time you speak of equal rights, civil rights, and voting rights, please ponder what these would truly mean to citizens of this county.  If we honor civil rights for all, equally, the “military industrial complex” could not exist as it does.  Please enlighten others.  People, the poor, and those with plenty matter equally!

    Rights, Wrongs, Civil Discourse References . . .

  • Civil and Constitutional Rights.  New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.
  • Clinton: Afghanistan Needs More Troops. The Associated Press.  Washington Post.  Tuesday, September 26, 2006; 10:17 PM
  • pdf Clinton: Afghanistan Needs More Troops.  The Associated Press.  Washington Post.  Tuesday, September 26, 2006; 10:17 PM
  • Youths in Rural U.S. Are Drawn To Military, Recruits’ Job Worries Outweigh War Fears, By Ann Scott Tyson.  Washington Post.?Friday, November 4, 2005; Page A01
  • pdf Youths in Rural U.S. Are Drawn To Military, Recruits’ Job Worries Outweigh War Fears, By Ann Scott Tyson.  Washington Post.?Friday, November 4, 2005; Page A01
  • Inquiry into new claims of poll abuses in Florida, By Julian Borger and Gregory Palast.
  • Block the Vote – By Paul Krugman.  October 15, 2004
  • America’s Military Population, By David R. Segal and Mady Wechsler Segal.  Population Reference Bureau. December 2004
  • Voter’s Rights Act?  United States Department of Justice.  Civil Rights Division?.  Voting Section
  • Voting Rights Act.  Renew.  Restore.  American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU Foundation
  • Civil rights.  LII / Legal Information Institute.
  • Voting Rights  LII / Legal Information Institute.
  • Army Recruitment Goals Endangered as Percent of African American Enlistees Declines, By David R. Segal and Mady Wechsler Segal.  Population Reference Bureau  November 2005
  • Service in Iraq: Just How Risky? By Samuel H. Preston and Emily Buzzell.  Washington Post. Saturday, August 26, 2006; Page A21
  • pdf Service in Iraq: Just How Risky? By Samuel H. Preston and Emily Buzzell.  Washington Post. Saturday, August 26, 2006; Page A21
  • Steady Drop in Black Army Recruits, Data Said to Reflect Views on Iraq War.  By Josh White.  Washington Post.?Wednesday, March 9, 2005; Page A01
  • pdf Steady Drop in Black Army Recruits, Data Said to Reflect Views on Iraq War.  By Josh White.  Washington Post.?Wednesday, March 9, 2005; Page A01
  • Bayh, Clinton Call for More Troops in Afghanistan. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. January 17, 2007
  • Military-Industrial Complex Speech, Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961
  • Save the Internet and Free Speech! ©

    According to the United States Constitution, we are or were created equal.  All of mankind has or had the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  It is said that these are our inalienable rights.  The Bill of Rights affords us freedom of speech, of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.  We, the people have value and worth and must be able to express this or so the law states.

    Only a day ago, it was announced, we, you, and I are the “People of the Year.”  Time Magazine declared this generation of bloggers bold.  We go where no man or woman has gone before.  With thanks to the net we have created a neighborhood unparalleled and powerful.  Perhaps, our cyberspace community is too potent for some.

    The corporate giants wish to reduce our influence; they are working to paralyze a thriving Internet.  I ask you individually and as a group to speak out.  It is your right!  Please Save the Internet! Secure Net Neutrality for the next and following generations.  Please prepare for the progeny seven score from now.

    References for your review . . .

  • Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.  Wikipedia
  • The Bill of Rights
  • Save the Internet! YouTube
  • Random Searches, Racial Profiling, Deport, Kill, All Xenophobia! ©

    Weeks ago, a plane was “forced” to land.  Actually, the crew chose to land; “character” was the concern.  Who are these characters?  Pakistani passengers were walking the aisles.  People panicked.  They knew.  Pakistan is the breeding ground for terrorists; clearly these men must be among those. Passengers and the flight crew agreed; these men must be planning, pacing, and readying for an attack.  Numerous people were puzzled; when would the suspicious swarthy men pull out the guns, the knives, and how were they able to get these on the plane.  Actually, why were these men allowed on this or any airbus; they are dark characters.  Their complexions were cause enough for concern. What was the airline thinking?  Everyone knows of persons such as these.

    What do we know?  We know what they look like, not who they are.  People judge and document the rationalization for their personal reality.  They forget. A book, a boy, a man, a woman, a terrorist, or even a candidate, cannot be judged by its cover.  Character cannot be captured in a moment; it is more than an appearance.  Yet, people believe that they know.  Individuals and groups alike deny the inevitability of xenophobia, the fear of strangers.  Police and politicians, profess profundity, as does the general public.  Opinions masquerading as “facts” flourish, and unjust practices become policy.

    The facts are America was attacked on 9/11/2001.  Terrorists claimed responsibility.  These radicals were said to be Middle Eastern.  Therefore, people in the West understand, they must fear Middle-Easterners.  These individuals must be considered the “enemy.”  Trepidation for those that appear to be Muslim, Persian, foreign nationals, or merely “strange,” is thought to be valid.

    The recent London bombings reinforced this belief.  It seems the Western-World is under attack.  Terrorists are everywhere.  Discovering that the London bombers were homegrown only advanced greater suspicion.  Even hometown boys and men are suspect.

    Since the London attacks, cities throughout the western world are on high alert.  Police in New York City are checking the bags of subways passengers.  The searches are “random.” New York City police are posted at the entrance of the subterranean train stations.  They arbitrarily choose whose bags they might explore.  If the prospective rider elects not to be searched they will not be allowed to ride.

    Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly stressed officers would not engage in racial profiling.  Subway and rail passengers are free to “turn around and leave.” Yet, are they “free,” or are those individuals refusing to be searched now defined as criminals?  If their skin is dark and their clothing bulky, will they be told to halt, as the Brazilian in London was?  If the “free” to go, man or woman does not respond immediately, or in a manner that pleases the police, will this person then be shot and brutally killed, accidentally?  These questions must be asked.

    When queried, officials stated they would not specify how frequently the checks would occur.  Nor would they define how they determined whom they might suspect of carrying explosives.  How could they; this information would reveal that the police are in fact, assessing a person by their appearance.  They are human, and that is what we do.

    New research published in the Science Magazine, Inferences of Competence From Faces Predict Election Outcome, shows that voters prefer political candidates that appear able. Alexander Todorov, a research scientist at Princeton, verified that people prefer faces that they believe reflect substance; competency is considered a “wining” characteristic.

    Todorov designed a research study assessing an individual’s reaction to facial appearances, nothing more. The intent of the experiment was to determine if attractiveness influenced voting practices.  It did not.  Attractiveness was not the deciding factor; the appearance of competency was.  Professor Todorov claims “when people are not burdened by ‘facts,; they decide quickly.”  Seemingly competent, and self-assured persons are perceived as stable.  Knowledge of the true individual only confuses the evaluation.  He determined inferences are powerful.

    Leslie A Zebrowitz, author of “Reading Faces,”, and a psychologist at Brandeis University, offers her comments on the Todorov findings.  She states, in her research she too discovered impressions are influential.  Our notion of a person predicts more than the truth does.  Zebrowitz  declares those with stronger chins and longer noses are considered skilled.  A person with a rounded-baby-face, bigger eyes, a smaller nose bridge, and shorter chin is thought to be less mature.  People with these physical qualities are considered less knowledgeable, less experienced, and less proficient.  People that look young, or naïve, are judged less able to take care of business.

    Todorov, Zebrowitz, and others conclude, people assume and presume. No matter how hard individuals try to be impartial, detached, neutral, or without prejudice; they are not.  Human beings are not objective.  Claims to the contrary, however interesting, seem to be self-serving rationalizations for law enforcement and xenophobic souls.

    Dr. Donn Bryne, of State University New York, in Albany, is a social psychologist.  He too evaluated judgments.  Bryne did extensive research on the subject of attraction.  It may be argued that emotional or physical, pull has little to do with the afore-mentioned stereotyping; however, if we are honest with ourselves we see that it does.  We are drawn to a particular person and repelled by another.  We form opinions about those that disgust us, as well as those that delight us.  Opinions are subjective.

    Just as the other studies did, Bryne’s experiments assessed how people decide much, with few facts. Dr. Bryne actually created the “Bogus Stranger Technique.”  He developed a system that distorted what is true of another person.  Dr. Bryne created an attitude scale consisting of twenty-six topics.  The subjects were scattered; there were areas that would be of major importance [God and premarital sex] and subjects of less significance [Western movies and televisions programs].  He asked participants to rate these.

    Two weeks after filling out their own assessment scales, Bryne told participants they were part of a study on how well people can predict the behavior of another person. They were then presented with attitude scales filled out by this other person, the individual whose behavior they would later, be asked to predict.  In truth the other person was the experimenter.  The experimenter created a bogus set of answers.  These responses were calculated; they would either be very similar to the subjects’ own answers or very dissimilar.

    Participants were given time to assess the rankings of the “stranger.”  Following their evaluation, the subjects were asked a series of questions about the “other.” They were queried of their personal feelings toward the “unknown” person.  Questions such as, “Would you like to work with this person?” “Do you believe they are intelligent; does he or she have knowledge of current events, morality, and are they well adjusted?” were posed.  In each case, the conclusion was the same.  People that are similar to us are those that we prefer, think highly of, respect, and judge as credible.

    Those that appear to be similar to “us”, are not persons we will frisk, search, shoot  accidentally, or deport.  We honor what we think is. If “it,” he or she is as we are, we will show respect.  If “it,” he or she is not, well, that is a different story.  We may shun, accuse, kill, or deport individuals that are not as we are.  We will do this even if we “suspect” that they are dissimilar.  “Facts” and information cloud our “objective” mind.

    Thus we have it; random searches, by definition, given human nature, are acts of racial profiling.  It has been proven, over, and over, and over again.  Xenophobia is alive and well; it is the human condition and in recent years it is law!

    Today, August 5, 2005, Prime Minister Tony Blair promotes more xenophobia.  Please read and consider, Blair Proposes Stricter Deportation Rules Against Terrorism, Los Angeles Times.  In this article, Blair is quoted, “We welcome people here who share our values and our way of life. But don’t meddle in extremism because if you meddle in it, you are going back out again.”

    I ask, who defines extremism and is the judge objective?  I “suspect” that the arbiter will be human, likely xenophobic.  Fear of the unfamiliar, the unknown, and that which we do not understand, or chose not to is our common bond.

    United Church Of Christ Committee Approves Gay Marriage ©

    Sunday, July 3, 2005

    The President of the United Sates does not approve of gay marriage.  He has repeatedly requested that the Constitution be amended to ensure that gay couples cannot legally unite.  We know, that God speaks through Mr. Bush, for he has mentioned this often.  Therefore, we can assume that God does not approve of gay unions. The current Pope, Benedict XVI is strongly opposed to the prospect; the past Pope, John Paul II was as well.  The Vice President and his family are conflicted.

    In November 2004, eleven states referendums rejecting recognition of gay marriages, passed decisively.

    Public polls show that people throughout this country are more in favor then opposed.

    This Sunday, after much dialogue, a committee of 50 United Church of Christ representatives gave their blessings.  They believe the Church must sanction gay marriages.  They rejected the notion that marriage be defined as “a union between one man and one woman.”  They are asking the General Synod to do the same in their Monday meeting.

    Though the votes were nearly unanimous, there was concern.  If the council does pass the motions, will some sects threaten to leave the organization?  This was considered and discussed.  The dialogue began early on Sunday morning. The committee debated extensively; discussions lasted late into the afternoon.

    Committee member Emily Jean Gilbert of Allentown, Pennsylvania stated, “There are churches and individuals who will be deeply, deeply wounded by this decision.  I ask you to treat these people with respect and honor their feelings.”  Members of the commission believe that they are respecting and honoring the feeling of all parishioners, not only the few.

    The United Church of Christ has long espoused philosophies that are forward thinking.  In the 17th century the UCC was known as an avant-garde organization.  Then, as now, the guiding principles were reflective of social change.  The church hierarchy has consistently acted on these standards.  The Church ordained its first Black minister in the 18th century.  Early in the 1970s, the UCC became the first major Christian church to ordain an openly gay minister.  In the 1980s a public declaration stated that the Church is “open and affirming” of gays and lesbians.  They still are, more actively now than ever.

    However, other Churches are not.  Some are more engrained in dogma than they ever were.  Many, if not most oppose same-sex marriages.  Some still struggle with the idea of union ceremonies.  Many argue that the Bible forbids intimate relations between members of the same gender.  They state, men are meant to with women and women with men.  There are those that believe biology dictates this.  These individuals and organizations feel great outrage towards the United Church of Christ.

    Monday, July 4, 2005

    The day has come and the initiative passed.  It passed overwhelmingly.

    At a news conference, President and Reverend John H. Thomas announced, “On this July Fourth the General Synod of the United Church of Christ has acted courageously to declare freedom, affirming marriage equality, affirming the civil rights of same gender couples to have their relationships recognized as marriages by the state, and encouraging our local churches to celebrate and bless those marriages.”

    Thomas informed the press, the resolution is not binding on local churches.  The Synod only asks churches to adopt the policy.  The Reverend affirms the United Church of Christ now joins the state of Massachusetts, the Netherlands, Canada, and Spain; all recognize same-sex marriages.

    The annual meeting of the UCC will end on Tuesday, July 5, 2005.  Who knows what the public will hear before the close.  Who knows how they will react?  Will gays be more globally accepted or less?  God only knows.  Might we ask President Bush what God is thinking?

    The United Church of Christ offers an interesting site.  You may find this exploration as fascinating as I did. The UCC says, “God is Still Speaking”

    Schiavo, Schiavo, Schiavo, With A Touch of Survivors ©

    On this, the week of March 21, 2005, there is much madness.  There is madness in the message, madness among the masses, and madness in what we are missing.

    Mass media, and public media are in a frenzy; each is covering the Schiavo situation in greater depth than any other story.  Those that study the media and the message note that the networks have devoted more airtime to this narrative than those covered in the past.  This saga dominates; in the last five days, each of the twenty-two minute news programs has devoted a full sixty-minutes to this accounting.

    We the people are absorbed in words of wisdom.  There are words of warning, words of woe, and of course, there are those words that tout the need for living wills.  We are speaking of death, of dying, of deliverance and yet, we are barely speaking of dropouts [or a number of other important subjects.]

    If you desire A Loving Perspective on Pain and Passing you may wish to reflect upon,

    Making End-of-Life Decisions for a Mother

    Yesterday, a disturbing report was released.  The Civil Rights Project of Harvard University stated that the high school graduation rate in California is a mere 71 percent.  The Los Angeles Unified School District [LA Times March 2005] was among the worst sited in this study.  In 2002, 39 percent of Latinos, 47 percent of African Americans, 77 percent of Caucasian, and 84 percent of Asian students graduated from high school.  More than half of the Asian Pacific students drop out of high school before receiving a degree. [MSNBC March 2005]

    Numerous young people in our society feel devastated, distraught; they have little hope.  These adolescents are not disabled or facing the possibility of death; they are facing life, a life of desperation.

    Many students feel invisible, misunderstood, discouraged, and disheartened.  Consider the recent reality of a quiet young man, one who “walks into his high school and methodically commits mass murder.”  After this agonizing action, he then takes his own life.  While it is true that many and thankfully most do not engage in such extreme expressions of despair, many, even those that are part of a close-knit community, or a seemingly supportive family, feel disconnected, distressed.  Often young people feel a deep sense of desolation.  When they assess the quality of their lives, they feel none.

    Our youth are looking for answers, looking for their life, and essentially searching for quality within their lives.  Yet, we, as a people, are focusing on death.  There are some are speaking of birth, for there are those equating the removal of a feeding tube to abortion.  However, few are discussing what lies in-between.

    I hear people speak of “playing God.”  They speak of it as it relates to life, as it relates to the taking of life, and I wonder.  How often do we, as a society, “play God” with those that are living life?  We seem to decide who and what is worthy of our attention, how, when and where we are going to attend to the needs of the living and in doing so, we “play God,” and we leave many behind.

    We do not tell their stories, see their pain, experience their struggles, or concern ourselves with their existence.  We ignore the living in deference to those that are dying.  We are fascinating beings; we build and we destroy.  We give birth and we die.  We celebrate these milestones; we cover them in the news, and yet, lives and living pass with little fanfare.

    You may be interested in . . .

    Maureen Dowd Discussing “DeLay, Deny, amd Demagogue”

    Media Matters For America writes of

    “Conservatives Claim that Liberals “want” Schiavo to Die”

    John Leland asks, “Did Decartes Doom Terri Schiavo?”