Voting and Learning Denied. Education and Entitlement

©copyright 2013. Betsy L. Angert BeThink



Is it fear of the darkness that dims our mind or is it the dim of our mind that is dark and damning?  No one can be sure; however we can see what occurs and ask why.  Why might Americans systematically deny rights to people of color? Why might the young, the most vulnerable among us, be victims of prey?  Indeed, why do we prejudge people at all and why is it that even the elderly cannot escape our diabolical doings?  The theories abound; answers escape us.  Nevertheless, the veracity is our truth. The right to learn and the right to vote are denied.

We close their schools, deny them an equal and equitable education, and in 2013 we may ultimately rescind the voting rights of the few.  In January of this year, the Journey For Justice 2 Alliance met with officials in Washington, District of Columbia, to discuss the topic, education policies that discriminate.  Today, on February 27, 2013, just down the lane from the Department of Education hearing, another inquiry was held.  The Supreme Court heard the case, Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder.  On the face of it, the argument may seem separate from the subject of school closures.  However, considering the consequences of what might be after a day of testimony,  Voting Rights Law Draws Skepticism From Justices, there is reason for concern.  Will the cycle of recrimination continue? Will we curse the darkness that is our own?  

Perhaps, we might seek the light? We saw it once and embraced it.  It exists and can again, if we just walk through the window of time.  Luminosity can be our guide. Let us consider a vital voice from the past, President, Lyndon Baines Johnson spoke in defense of the Voting Rights Act. He said…

The Negro citizen may go to register only to be told that the day is wrong, or the hour is late, or the official in charge is absent. And if he persists and, if he manages to present himself to the registrar, he may be disqualified because he did not spell out his middle name, or because he abbreviated a word on the application. And if he manages to fill out an application, he is given a test. The registrar is the sole judge of whether he passes this test. He may be asked to recite the entire Constitution, or explain the most complex provisions of state law.

And even a college degree cannot be used to prove that he can read and write. For the fact is that the only way to pass these barriers is to show a white skin. Experience has clearly shown that the existing process of law cannot overcome systematic and ingenious discrimination.

“Discrimination.”  It touches more than one race, color, or creed.  Age too in 2012 limited or eliminated the right to vote.  96-Year-Old Tennessee Woman Denied Voter ID Because She Didn’t Have Her Marriage License. Va. senior citizens denied no-excuse absentee voting. Where you lived, whether you attended school far from home, or if you merely left whatever document requested at home, you could not cast a ballot.  The excuses used to negate voting rights are as they were in the 1960s, endless. Yet, Supreme Court Jurists affirm, “Justice is blind.”

From the bench we were provided with a rare view, Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Scalia cannot see. Roberts reeled off statistics that suggested the provisions are no longer made sense. Justice Antonin Scalia said the law, once a civil rights landmark, now is but a “perpetuation of racial entitlement. “Entitlement? Might we tell the parents of children who are today, denied access to equal and equitable education the time has past? Their offspring no longer have the rights afforded to the many, mostly white Americans?  Was learning given a limited contract? Is it now considered a “perpetuation of racial entitlement.

Voting and learning. Education and entitlement. Let us look at the evidence.  Complaint says Omaha voters denied ballots. Rick Scott Defends Voter Purge As Necessary ‘To Have Fair Elections’.   Republican Voter Suppression Campaign Rolls Back Early Voting.  The beat goes on.  

Please ponder the veracity that not only are our Black and Brown children affected by punitive polices that allow for “phase-outs,” “collocations,” “turnaround,” and again, the devastating “school closures,” others too are impacted.  Consider the white suburban Mom and her children, School turnarounds prompt community backlash. Again ask yourself; do we fear the darkness or does the darkness, lack of knowledge with us, dim the mind.

Do we deny light to those who wish to learn and live?  What have we denied ourselves or within us?  Let us, one and all learn!  Let us seek the light.  Today, let us consider what could occur if access to an education and, or the right to vote are denied. Might a child less prepared, less learned, due to the discriminatory actions in education policy be unable to prove he can read and write? Currently, literacy in America is in crisis. 11 Facts about Literacy in America

  • An estimated 30 million Americans over 16 years old cannot perform simple and everyday literacy activities.
  • 55% of adults with below basic reading comprehension did not graduate high school.
  • Only an estimated 13% of adult Americans can perform complex and challenging literacy activities.

Consider today and what occurred decades ago. Please ask yourself, do we deny access to education and to voting rights. If we do, what will become of our children and our country?

President Lyndon B. Johnson – We Shall Overcome



I speak tonight for the dignity of man and the destiny of Democracy. I urge every member of both parties, Americans of all religions and of all colors, from every section of this country, to join me in that cause.

At times, history and fate meet at a single time in a single place to shape a turning point in man’s unending search for freedom. So it was at Lexington and Concord. So it was a century ago at Appomattox. So it was last week in Selma, Alabama. There, long suffering men and women peacefully protested the denial of their rights as Americans. Many of them were brutally assaulted. One good man–a man of God–was killed.

There is no cause for pride in what has happened in Selma. There is no cause for self-satisfaction in the long denial of equal rights of millions of Americans. But there is cause for hope and for faith in our Democracy in what is happening here tonight. For the cries of pain and the hymns and protests of oppressed people have summoned into convocation all the majesty of this great government–the government of the greatest nation on earth. Our mission is at once the oldest and the most basic of this country–to right wrong, to do justice, to serve man. In our time we have come to live with the moments of great crises. Our lives have been marked with debate about great issues, issues of war and peace, issues of prosperity and depression.

But rarely in any time does an issue lay bare the secret heart of America itself. Rarely are we met with a challenge, not to our growth or abundance, or our welfare or our security, but rather to the values and the purposes and the meaning of our beloved nation. The issue of equal rights for American Negroes is such an issue. And should we defeat every enemy, and should we double our wealth and conquer the stars, and still be unequal to this issue, then we will have failed as a people and as a nation. For, with a country as with a person, “what is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”

There is no Negro problem. There is no Southern problem. There is no Northern problem. There is only an American problem.

And we are met here tonight as Americans–not as Democrats or Republicans; we’re met here as Americans to solve that problem. This was the first nation in the history of the world to be founded with a purpose.

The great phrases of that purpose still sound in every American heart, North and South: “All men are created equal.” “Government by consent of the governed.” “Give me liberty or give me death.” And those are not just clever words, and those are not just empty theories. In their name Americans have fought and died for two centuries and tonight around the world they stand there as guardians of our liberty risking their lives. Those words are promised to every citizen that he shall share in the dignity of man. This dignity cannot be found in a man’s possessions. It cannot be found in his power or in his position. It really rests on his right to be treated as a man equal in opportunity to all others. It says that he shall share in freedom. He shall choose his leaders, educate his children, provide for his family according to his ability and his merits as a human being.

To apply any other test, to deny a man his hopes because of his color or race or his religion or the place of his birth is not only to do injustice, it is to deny Americans and to dishonor the dead who gave their lives for American freedom. Our fathers believed that if this noble view of the rights of man was to flourish it must be rooted in democracy. This most basic right of all was the right to choose your own leaders. The history of this country in large measure is the history of expansion of the right to all of our people.

Many of the issues of civil rights are very complex and most difficult. But about this there can and should be no argument: every American citizen must have an equal right to vote. There is no reason, which can excuse the denial of that right. There is no duty which weighs more heavily on us than the duty we have to insure that right. Yet the harsh fact is that in many places in this country men and women are kept from voting simply because they are Negroes.

Every device of which human ingenuity is capable, has been used to deny this right. The Negro citizen may go to register only to be told that the day is wrong, or the hour is late, or the official in charge is absent. And if he persists and, if he manages to present himself to the registrar, he may be disqualified because he did not spell out his middle name, or because he abbreviated a word on the application. And if he manages to fill out an application, he is given a test. The registrar is the sole judge of whether he passes this test. He may be asked to recite the entire Constitution, or explain the most complex provisions of state law.

And even a college degree cannot be used to prove that he can read and write. For the fact is that the only way to pass these barriers is to show a white skin. Experience has clearly shown that the existing process of law cannot overcome systematic and ingenious discrimination. No law that we now have on the books, and I have helped to put three of them there, can insure the right to vote when local officials are determined to deny it. In such a case, our duty must be clear to all of us. The Constitution says that no person shall be kept from voting because of his race or his color.

We have all sworn an oath before God to support and to defend that Constitution. We must now act in obedience to that oath. Wednesday, I will send to Congress a law designed to eliminate illegal barriers to the right to vote. The broad principles of that bill will be in the hands of the Democratic and Republican leaders tomorrow. After they have reviewed it, it will come here formally as a bill. I am grateful for this opportunity to come here tonight at the invitation of the leadership to reason with my friends, to give them my views and to visit with my former colleagues.

I have had prepared a more comprehensive analysis of the legislation which I had intended to transmit to the clerk tomorrow, but which I will submit to the clerks tonight. But I want to really discuss the main proposals of this legislation. This bill will strike down restrictions to voting in all elections, federal, state and local, which have been used to deny Negroes the right to vote.

This bill will establish a simple, uniform standard which cannot be used, however ingenious the effort, to flout our Constitution. It will provide for citizens to be registered by officials of the United States Government, if the state officials refuse to register them. It will eliminate tedious, unnecessary lawsuits which delay the right to vote. Finally, this legislation will insure that properly registered individuals are not prohibited from voting. I will welcome the suggestions from all the members of Congress–I have no doubt that I will get some–on ways and means to strengthen this law and to make it effective.

But experience has plainly shown that this is the only path to carry out the command of the Constitution. To those who seek to avoid action by their national government in their home communities, who want to and who seek to maintain purely local control over elections, the answer is simple: open your polling places to all your people. Allow men and women to register and vote whatever the color of their skin. Extend the rights of citizenship to every citizen of this land. There is no Constitutional issue here. The command of the Constitution is plain. There is no moral issue. It is wrong–deadly wrong–to deny any of your fellow Americans the right to vote in this country.

There is no issue of state’s rights or national rights. There is only the struggle for human rights. I have not the slightest doubt what will be your answer. But the last time a President sent a civil rights bill to the Congress it contained a provision to protect voting rights in Federal elections. That civil rights bill was passed after eight long months of debate. And when that bill came to my desk from the Congress for signature, the heart of the voting provision had been eliminated.

This time, on this issue, there must be no delay, or no hesitation, or no compromise with our purpose. We cannot, we must not, refuse to protect the right of every American to vote in every election that he may desire to participate in.

And we ought not, and we cannot, and we must not wait another eight months before we get a bill. We have already waited 100 years and more and the time for waiting is gone. So I ask you to join me in working long hours and nights and weekends, if necessary, to pass this bill. And I don’t make that request lightly, for, from the window where I sit, with the problems of our country, I recognize that from outside this chamber is the outraged conscience of a nation, the grave concern of many nations and the harsh judgment of history on our acts.

But even if we pass this bill the battle will not be over. What happened in Selma is part of a far larger movement which reaches into every section and state of America. It is the effort of American Negroes to secure for themselves the full blessings of American life. Their cause must be our cause too. Because it’s not just Negroes, but really it’s all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice.

And we shall overcome.

As a man whose roots go deeply into Southern soil, I know how agonizing racial feelings are. I know how difficult it is to reshape the attitudes and the structure of our society. But a century has passed–more than 100 years–since the Negro was freed. And he is not fully free tonight. It was more than 100 years ago that Abraham Lincoln–a great President of another party–signed the Emancipation Proclamation. But emancipation is a proclamation and not a fact.

A century has passed–more than 100 years–since equality was promised, and yet the Negro is not equal. A century has passed since the day of promise, and the promise is unkept. The time of justice has now come, and I tell you that I believe sincerely that no force can hold it back. It is right in the eyes of man and God that it should come, and when it does, I think that day will brighten the lives of every American. For Negroes are not the only victims. How many white children have gone uneducated? How many white families have lived in stark poverty? How many white lives have been scarred by fear, because we wasted energy and our substance to maintain the barriers of hatred and terror?

And so I say to all of you here and to all in the nation tonight that those who appeal to you to hold on to the past do so at the cost of denying you your future. This great rich, restless country can offer opportunity and education and hope to all–all, black and white, North and South, sharecropper and city dweller. These are the enemies: poverty, ignorance, disease. They are our enemies, not our fellow man, not our neighbor.

And these enemies too–poverty, disease and ignorance–we shall overcome.

Now let none of us in any section look with prideful righteousness on the troubles in another section or the problems of our neighbors. There is really no part of America where the promise of equality has been fully kept. In Buffalo as well as in Birmingham, in Philadelphia as well as Selma, Americans are struggling for the fruits of freedom.

This is one nation. What happens in Selma and Cincinnati is a matter of legitimate concern to every American. But let each of us look within our own hearts and our own communities and let each of us put our shoulder to the wheel to root out injustice wherever it exists. As we meet here in this peaceful historic chamber tonight, men from the South, some of whom were at Iwo Jima, men from the North who have carried Old Glory to the far corners of the world and who brought it back without a stain on it, men from the east and from the west are all fighting together without regard to religion or color or region in Vietnam.

Men from every region fought for us across the world 20 years ago. And now in these common dangers, in these common sacrifices, the South made its contribution of honor and gallantry no less than any other region in the great republic.

And in some instances, a great many of them, more. And I have not the slightest doubt that good men from everywhere in this country, from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico, from the Golden Gate to the harbors along the Atlantic, will rally now together in this cause to vindicate the freedom of all Americans. For all of us owe this duty and I believe that all of us will respond to it.

Your president makes that request of every American.

The real hero of this struggle is the American Negro. His actions and protests, his courage to risk safety, and even to risk his life, have awakened the conscience of this nation. His demonstrations have been designed to call attention to injustice, designed to provoke change; designed to stir reform. He has been called upon to make good the promise of America.

And who among us can say that we would have made the same progress were it not for his persistent bravery and his faith in American democracy? For at the real heart of the battle for equality is a deep-seated belief in the democratic process. Equality depends, not on the force of arms or tear gas, but depends upon the force of moral right–not on recourse to violence, but on respect for law and order.

There have been many pressures upon your President and there will be others as the days come and go. But I pledge to you tonight that we intend to fight this battle where it should be fought–in the courts, and in the Congress, and the hearts of men. We must preserve the right of free speech and the right of free assembly. But the right of free speech does not carry with it–as has been said–the right to holler fire in a crowded theatre.

We must preserve the right to free assembly. But free assembly does not carry with it the right to block public thoroughfares to traffic. We do have a right to protest. And a right to march under conditions that do not infringe the Constitutional rights of our neighbors. And I intend to protect all those rights as long as I am permitted to serve in this office.

We will guard against violence, knowing it strikes from our hands the very weapons which we seek–progress, obedience to law, and belief in American values. In Selma, as elsewhere, we seek and pray for peace. We seek order, we seek unity, but we will not accept the peace of stifled rights or the order imposed by fear, or the unity that stifles protest–for peace cannot be purchased at the cost of liberty.

In Selma tonight–and we had a good day there–as in every city we are working for a just and peaceful settlement. We must all remember after this speech I’m making tonight, after the police and the F.B.I. and the Marshals have all gone, and after you have promptly passed this bill, the people of Selma and the other cities of the nation must still live and work together.

And when the attention of the nation has gone elsewhere they must try to heal the wounds and to build a new community. This cannot be easily done on a battleground of violence as the history of the South itself shows. It is in recognition of this that men of both races have shown such an outstandingly impressive responsibility in recent days–last Tuesday and again today.

The bill I am presenting to you will be known as a civil rights bill. But in a larger sense, most of the program I am recommending is a civil rights program. Its object is to open the city of hope to all people of all races, because all Americans just must have the right to vote, and we are going to give them that right.

All Americans must have the privileges of citizenship, regardless of race, and they are going to have those privileges of citizenship regardless of race.

But I would like to caution you and remind you that to exercise these privileges takes much more than just legal rights. It requires a trained mind and a healthy body. It requires a decent home and the chance to find a job and the opportunity to escape from the clutches of poverty.

Of course people cannot contribute to the nation if they are never taught to read or write; if their bodies are stunted from hunger; if their sickness goes untended; if their life is spent in hopeless poverty, just drawing a welfare check.

So we want to open the gates to opportunity. But we’re also going to give all our people, black and white, the help that they need to walk through those gates. My first job after college was as a teacher in Cotulla, Texas, in a small Mexican-American school. Few of them could speak English and I couldn’t speak much Spanish. My students were poor and they often came to class without breakfast and hungry. And they knew even in their youth the pain of prejudice. They never seemed to know why people disliked them, but they knew it was so because I saw it in their eyes.

I often walked home late in the afternoon after the classes were finished wishing there was more that I could do. But all I knew was to teach them the little that I knew, hoping that I might help them against the hardships that lay ahead. And somehow you never forget what poverty and hatred can do when you see its scars on the hopeful face of a young child.

I never thought then, in 1928, that I would be standing here in 1965. It never even occurred to me in my fondest dreams that I might have the chance to help the sons and daughters of those students, and to help people like them all over this country. But now I do have that chance.

And I’ll let you in on a secret–I mean to use it. And I hope that you will use it with me.

This is the richest, most powerful country which ever occupied this globe. The might of past empires is little compared to ours. But I do not want to be the president who built empires, or sought grandeur, or extended dominion.

I want to be the president who educated young children to the wonders of their world. I want to be the President who helped to feed the hungry and to prepare them to be taxpayers instead of tax eaters. I want to be the President who helped the poor to find their own way and who protected the right of every citizen to vote in every election. I want to be the President who helped to end hatred among his fellow men and who promoted love among the people of all races, all regions and all parties. I want to be the President who helped to end war among the brothers of this earth.

And so, at the request of your beloved Speaker and the Senator from Montana, the Majority Leader, the Senator from Illinois, the Minority Leader, Mr. McCullock and other members of both parties, I came here tonight, not as President Roosevelt came down one time in person to veto a bonus bill; not as President Truman came down one time to urge passage of a railroad bill, but I came down here to ask you to share this task with me. And to share it with the people that we both work for.

I want this to be the Congress–Republicans and Democrats alike–which did all these things for all these people. Beyond this great chamber–out yonder–in fifty states are the people that we serve. Who can tell what deep and unspoken hopes are in their hearts tonight as they sit there and listen? We all can guess, from our own lives, how difficult they often find their own pursuit of happiness, how many problems each little family has. They look most of all to themselves for their future, but I think that they also look to each of us.

Above the pyramid on the Great Seal of the United States it says in latin, “God has favored our undertaking.” God will not favor everything that we do. It is rather our duty to divine His will. But I cannot help but believe that He truly understands and that He really favors the undertaking that we begin here tonight.

President Lyndon B. Johnson – March 15, 1965

References and Resources…

Our Best And Our Brightest

copyright © 2009 Forgiven. The Disputed Truth

For years, many blacks have just come to accept that integration was the path to success in America. Blacks who have been able to have deftly navigated the integration maze either through employment, education, or athletic achievement. And once reaching the pinnacle of their success they have chosen to leave their neighborhoods, friends, and communities to relocate into white America where they take on mythical status as being more than black. To whites they become not like those other blacks and therefore become more acceptable to their white sensibilities. And in some cases blacks believe they have some mythical characteristics that separate them from other blacks. In their wake they leave behind a community that is devoid of role models and success stories. They leave behind a community that is becoming more financially and morally bankrupt.

Before integration and the black man’s desertion of the black neighborhood the only place for successful black men was within the black community. They didn’t have the option of leaving and joining the majority population so their influence and their example were there for all to see and emulate. With the exodus of these heroes the black community has been left with smoke hounds, drunks, and prison gang leaders for masculine role models. And people wonder why young black men are doing so well? When you remove the presence of successful men in a community a vacuum is created and as with any vacuum something or someone is always there to fill it. In the case of the black community it has been filled by despair, hopelessness, and this penitentiary mentality. The heroes we have been left with are those who exploit and pander to violence, criminality, and gangsterism.

I remember when I was growing up we had professional athletes, doctors, and professional men as neighbors. We interacted with them daily and got to see that a black man could be successful without resorting to dealing drugs, robbing people, and killing their brothers. These men provided hope just by their very presence to many young black men who otherwise would have been consumed by their circumstances. Even children who did not have fathers at home still could go out into the community and see that there had been others who were able to overcome their surroundings and reach to another level. As blacks have been able to wrestle success from the clutches of an economic system that for so long had ignored and marginalized them they began to seek the safety and comfort of the suburbs. While I have no problem with anyone who wants to make a better life for their families in the suburbs, I do believe that we all have to be cognizant of the consequences of our actions. As more and more successful blacks have migrated to the suburbs in their wake they have left a more engrained and intransigent form of poverty, a poverty that feeds on itself and creates more poverty.

In my opinion there are two ways to be successful. One is to migrate to the suburbs and integrate into an established system of success. This of course is the easy route to take because the only work involved is assimilation into the larger culture. The second and by far the more difficult way is to stay where you are and rebuild the institutions that you have. By doing this you create and enforce your own definition of success which may be different from the larger culture. The key question in all of this I guess is do successful black men owe any loyalty to their communities besides trying to sell them sneakers or an occasional drive through the hood? Each person must answer this question within themselves, but as a Christian I am not only judged on what I do but also on the opportunities I have to do the right thing and do not.

Our black youth in our communities are at a crisis point. They are angry and for good reason. When they needed a black man to protect them and to lead them there was no one positive there. Instead what was there was gangs, criminals, and disengaged fathers. No longer were there positive role models to emulate and find a communal sense of pride in. As more and more black kids are growing up without fathers the need for hope has never been greater. These kids need to know that they matter in a world that has basically ignored, shunned, and made them feel invisible. They continue to cry out in dysfunctional ways, but it is the only way they know how to say we are hurting and no one seems to care. It is time for all of us to come together not as a white community or a black community but as one community to rebuild and restore our promise to one another. Yes, I am my brother’s keeper.

The tyranny of a prince in an oligarchy is not so dangerous to the public welfare as the apathy of a citizen in a democracy ~ Charles de Montesquieu

Black History Month; The Subject that Segregates

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copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

The history of Black Americans is a glorious one.  It is a chronicle filled with much triumph, as well as many trials and tribulations.  Yet, many debate whether a month that commemorates people, pitch in color, defies reason.  Do the days dedicated to the acknowledgement of African American achievements divide us as a nation?  The answer, some say is a complex one.  Consider the thoughts of Columnist, Clarence Page of The Chicago Tribune.  Is Black History Month already history?  Well, it depends.  Another view comes from a fellow Journalist and contributor to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Cynthia Tucker.  She is more emphatic in her evaluation.  Ms Tucker writes; Month robs blacks of part in U.S. history.  It seems the subject, Black History Month, segregates opinions.  

The theme divides people just as the annals of an analogous tale do.  Yet, perhaps, before Black History Month becomes but a memory we must reflect on a reality too painful to ignore.

A newborn was brought to his adopted parents who, while well educated, seemingly ethical, and definitely well-established in the community were cruel to the infant.  The proud father and mother were happy to take the neonate in.  “Dad” and “Mom” were fine folks.  Each spoke eloquently.  They wrote wondrous words such as “all men are created equal.”  Yet, in the New World they acted as barbarians would.  All that they said they thought sacred was negated.  The patriarch brutally beat the baby.  He may not have physically laid a hand on the toddler.  Nonetheless, he had overseers do the dirty deeds.  The matriarch, while outwardly sweeter, swiped at the “boy” whenever he was near.  The man who acted as a father, and his spouse, did all they could to ensure the tot remain enslaved.

The head of the family provided no books for the little tyke.  His wife did not discuss deeper issues with the child.  Ignorance would surely suppress desires for advancement.  If nothing else, a lad, without formal erudition, would not believe, he could succeed.  Surely, a child who had not learned to express himself well or to imagine would not wander far.  It would be best, the couple conceded, if the Black baby did not have the means to survive without assistance from the Lord and Lady of the land.  

As much as the couple worked to keep the dark-skinned “boy” in his place, the curious lad proved to be creative.  He invented.  He was innovative.  At times, he achieved beyond expectations.  Still, the youngster, the adolescent he grew to be, and the adult man, pitch in hue, was not rewarded for his achievements.  Traditionally, his caregivers took credit for his achievements.  The pinker persons who housed him, confined the Black man to a symbolic cage, a field of cotton, a city slum, or a prison, far from civilized society.  

The ebony man escaped when he could.  He sought an education.  He excelled when given a semblance of equal opportunities.  However, even in good times, someone, somewhere sought to subjugate him.  Away from his parents’ home, from father and mother’s persistent grip, the Black man remained subordinate.  What he did well, he had to be better than his white counterparts.  For Caucasians, it seemed impossible to separate him from his color.

Given an inch, an inspired “Negro” would take a mile, a week, or a month, his parents once mused.  Indeed, children of color did.  In 1926, Historian, Carter G. Woodson, a man born to former slaves, went on to earn a doctorate degree from Harvard and invite Americans to adopt Negro History Week.  In 2009, with the first African-American President of the United States in the White House, countless citizens conclude, Black History Month is already history.

Today, Americans are told the narrative is no longer relevant.  Accounts of African ancestors “robs” purplish-brown persons of the prominent role they played in the United States.  Journalist Cynthia Tucker writes, “The commemoration is a damaging form of apartheid, setting the contributions of black Americans aside as separate and unequal.”

Commentator, John Ridley disagrees.  He opines, and offers, Yes, We Still Need Black History Month. He believes the legends must be shared.  Mister Ridley fears the anecdotes will be forgotten.  Most, he observes, are yet to be told, or taught in school.  Society remains segregated when the subject is race relations, or Black History Month.

Perchance that is why people in this country are, as the first African-American Secretary of State says the actions of pale skinned Americans are, “polite, restrained” when the races mix or muse over their shared history.  The story of what was, and was not, in a country founded on freedom for all, is a sensitive topic,  When broached, anger boils over.  Excuses are made, or the embarrassed blame the Black man or woman for overreacting.

On February 18, 2009, Artist, Sean Delonas. appeared in the New York Post, The Artist once nicknamed the Picasso of prejudice, castigated the Commander-In-Chief, the first American charcoal in color to occupy the Oval Office,  

Mister Delonas penned a political cartoon many thought racist.  In the image, a chimpanzee lay dead in the grass.  Blood streams from the two bullet holes in the primate’s chest.  Police shooters, gun in hand, look at the slain beast and state; “They’ll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill.”  While some would wish to say the toon is but an innocent commentary, readers cannot negate an historic association.  Anglos have long referred to Black brethren as apes.  An African-American, even a President, the author of the financial package, is not exempt from scorn.  

Perhaps, in a cynical way, this is the proof those who prefer we not observe Black History Month seek.  In America, all men are created equal.  Any American might receive praise or punishment.  Surely, a defiant  The New York Post Editor, Col Allen would concur.  

Upon receipt of reprimands for the pictorial essay, newspaper executive Allen issued a statement in defense of the stimulus/chimp cartoon.  He said the caricature was but a parody of current events.  An actual chimp shot down in Connecticut was coupled with acts of Congress, or at least that is what the Post hoped people would believe.  

However, many Americans remember their history.  In the year 2000, long after the adoption of Black History Month, Doctor Marcus Neiman, Chairman Emeritus of Creation Anthropology at Landover Baptist University, published what was characterized as “his important findings.”  

In an article entitled “It Took A True Christian To Find The Missing Link,” the esteemed scholar stated; “God created human beings separate from primates.  There are different kinds of hominids, just like there are different kinds of mustard.  There are small primates called chimpanzees.  They are the cute little fellows who live in trees, like the one in that movie our greatest President, Ronald Reagan, starred in —  “Bedtime for Bonzo.” . . .  There are large primates that live on the jungle floor and scare missionaries, who, being Christians, are armed against them.  They are called gorillas.  There are even primates that play basketball, rob liquor stores, organize marches and make some attempt at imitating human speech.  They are called Negroes.  Regrettably, if there is such a thing a “natural selection,” most of them have selected to be naturally lazy.  They are living examples of the Lord’s unfinished business because these more primitive hominids are still evolving.”

Granted, those who think there is no need to teach Black History might argue there are infinite illustrations that counter a single comic strip or an eccentric scientist.  The little Black lad of yore lives no more in modern American history.

African-Americans have arrived.  Barack Obama is our President, elected by the people, Black and white.  Michelle Obama, America’s First Lady, an African-American scholar in her own right, by her very presence teaches Black History literally and figuratively.

Oprah Winfrey is among the wealthiest women in the world.  The entertainer’s entrepreneurial story is a “phenomenon, a modern-day Horatio Alger, up from roots in poorest America.”  Tiger Woods is highly successful.  Perhaps, these accomplished individuals demonstrate “race no longer defines us,” or as Eric Holder so aptly stated, what “now passes as meaningful interaction . . . in reality accomplishes very little.”  Surely, we are separate and unequal when we pretend that our past does not still define us, or that there is no reason to discuss the differences that continue to divide us.

Rather than rant or rage, Black History month is no longer relevant, as a nation we might realize as our Attorney General offered,  “This nation has still not come to grips with its racial past.”  (What) will be, at first, a process that is both awkward and painful,” will reap rewards.

What we may learn when we honor Black History, will be “potentially great,”  As Eric Holder espoused on the same day the controversial Delonas cartoon appeared.  The subject of segregation need not divide us.  When we acknowledge a problem, we can begin to solve it.  

Those who think there is no need to actively honor African-American history might wish to ponder the prominence of African-Americans who are unfamiliar to most.  Might those whose names we do not know from the past, and in the present, be representative of the young Black “boy” whose parents protected him, punished him, and did not honor him, or acknowledge his accomplishments?

Please ponder the draftsman, engineer, and inventor, Lewis Howard Latimer who worked as the original draftsman for Thomas Edison.  Scientist Latimer invented an electric lamp with an inexpensive carbon filament and a threaded wooden socket for light bulbs.  He also helped advance our current conversation, when he drafted the patent drawings for Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone.  Yet, American’s, for the most part do not memorialize the man who allowed us to chat more freely.  Black Americans’ History, a month of homage?  Let us talk.

Might many have thought purplish-brown Americans arrived in 1941?  When the United States went to war, Doctor Charles Richard Drew was named Director of the Blood Bank for the National Research Council.  His expertise, allowed America to collect blood for the American Armed Forces.  The groundwork for the American Red Cross, blood collection, and procedures that allow for the storage of plasma are attributed to this African-American.  Yet, few know his name.  

White patriarchs were, and are, perhaps more prominent in the minds of many who have forgotten the tale of the young lad and his adopted parents.  In America, absentmindedness for a prideful past affects our present.

The African-American man or woman who sits beside his Anglo brethren is not segregated by homage to history.  A lack of awareness, acceptance, and praise for a people divides America.  

Perhaps the question Americans might ask is not whether to set aside days to discuss the trials and tribulations of Black people.  The query, instead, might be, is colormuteness characteristic in a country segregated, not by Black History Month, but by the actions of man.  Could it be that citizens wish to claim American culture is a colorblind.  In a nation where racism remains rampant, albeit politely restrained, and better hidden, would Americans rather not remember the glorious history of Black brothers and sisters?  

Certainly, a commemoration of feats and foibles, trials, and tribulations will not divide the country as much as ignorance of our past and present does.

References for race relations, and a reality too long restrained . . .

Katrina’s [America’s] Hidden Race War



Katrina’s Hidden Race War: In Aftermath of Katrina, Vigilantes Shot 11 Blacks in New Orelans (1 of 2)

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

Racism, in reality, is fear of the unknown.  It is apprehension for what is alien to us.  A bigot is often one who claims to be colorblind.  However, indeed, he or she is more likely colormute.  Rarely do persons who think themselves tolerant speak of the scorn they feel for those who differ from them.  Often the intolerant are not aware of the rigidity that rules their lives.  Few amongst Anglos in America, since most appear as they do, consider what the life of one whose complexion is cause for rejection experience.  However, in an exposé, A.C. Thompson muses of what most rather not mention.  The author addresses “Katrina’s Hidden Race War.”  

Through the tales told, after a tumultuous tempest, readers learn of what they may know, and just not discuss freely.  In this land of the free and home of the brave, few people of color are truly free.  Yet, these same individuals are genuinely brave.  They have to be.

It is common to hear Caucasians say, “Some of my best friends are Black, Brown, Yellow, or Red.” People hope to create an impression.  Most wish to prove they willingly accept those unlike themselves.  However, the acquaintance they speak of may be the one and only person of color that they know.   People may think the person that they associate with is the exception to the rule.  He or she is a good gal or gent.  All other folks who do not don a pinkish hue are not to be trusted.

In this country, to publicly proclaim a hatred for a person whose complexion is dark is just not done.  That is unless a person can conceive of a circumstance that allows for a reasonable abhorrence.  Hurricane Katrina afforded such an opportunity for white residents of Algiers Point, Louisiana.

Algiers Point has always been somewhat isolated: it’s perched on the west bank of the Mississippi River, linked to the core of the city only by a ferry line and twin gray steel bridges. When the hurricane descended on Louisiana, Algiers Point got off relatively easy. While wide swaths of New Orleans were deluged, the levees ringing Algiers Point withstood the Mississippi’s surging currents, preventing flooding; most homes and businesses in the area survived intact. As word spread that the area was dry, desperate people began heading toward the west bank, some walking over bridges, others traveling by boat. The National Guard soon designated the Algiers Point ferry landing an official evacuation site. Rescuers from the Coast Guard and other agencies brought flood victims to the ferry terminal, where soldiers loaded them onto buses headed for Texas.

Facing an influx of refugees, the residents of Algiers Point could have pulled together food, water, and medical supplies for the flood victims. Instead, a group of white residents, convinced that crime would arrive with the human exodus, sought to seal off the area, blocking the roads in and out of the neighborhood by dragging lumber and downed trees into the streets. They stockpiled handguns, assault rifles, shotguns, and at least one Uzi and began patrolling the streets in pickup trucks and SUVs.

The newly formed militia, a loose band of about fifteen to thirty residents, most of them men, all of them white, was looking for thieves, outlaws or, as one member put it, anyone who simply “didn’t belong.”

The Nation Magazine, in the January 5, 2009 issue, recounts tales as told by those foreign elements who, while residents of the broader community, were shot as though they were criminals.  Their crime was perhaps only their skin color.  

The way Donnell Herrington tells it, there was no warning. One second he was trudging through the heat. The next he was lying prostrate on the pavement, his life spilling out of a hole in his throat, his body racked with pain, his vision blurred and distorted.

It was September 1, 2005, some three days after Hurricane Katrina crashed into New Orleans, and somebody had just blasted Herrington, who is African-American, with a shotgun. “I just hit the ground. I didn’t even know what happened,” recalls Herrington, a burly 32-year-old with a soft drawl.

The sudden eruption of gunfire horrified Herrington’s companions–his cousin Marcel Alexander, then 17, and friend Chris Collins, then 18, who are also black. “I looked at Donnell and he had this big old hole in his neck,” Alexander recalls. “I tried to help him up, and they started shooting again.” Herrington says he was staggering to his feet when a second shotgun blast struck him from behind; the spray of lead pellets also caught Collins and Alexander. The buckshot peppered Alexander’s back, arm, and buttocks.

Herrington shouted at the other men to run and turned to face his attackers: three armed white males. Herrington says he hadn’t even seen the men or their weapons before the shooting began. As Alexander and Collins fled, Herrington ran in the opposite direction, his hand pressed to the bleeding wound on his throat. Behind him, he says, the gunmen yelled, “Get him! Get that n*gg*r!”

Persons who were presumed guilty, merely by their presence, were neighbors from another section of town.  The poorer people sought safety and shelter after the storm placed them in a precarious situation.  Contrary to reports, the Black population did not loot or engage in thievery.  African-Americans did as the Anglos who were also chest-deep in floodwaters.  They “found” food and fluids to drink from a local grocery store after Hurricane Katrina destroyed all they had.  However, trepidation distorts perception.  Frequently, white Americans are apprehensive when they consider African-Americans.  

From birth, children are taught not to talk to strangers.  Little ones are cautioned to beware.  Different is dangerous.  Perchance, the Associated Press Reporters or Editors who covered the Katrina story were Anglos.  Hence, when Journalists, just as the residents of Algiers Point, saw persons who look as they do, they defined their actions as honorable.  However, the sight of a Black individual in a similar situation was not viewed through a clear lens.  The question might be asked, in America will it ever be.

Please ponder the images.  Then, consider the captions.



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Shared By Dustin

Some, of every complexion, did take possession of life’s littlest necessities.  In a few neighborhoods, not Algiers Point, white persons were benevolent towards those “others” of color.  However, Caucasian citizens might contemplate the reality that, before Katrina, the plight of Black Americans was hidden, and it is again.  

The depth of poverty experienced by many African-Americans, the people whose ancestors physically built this nation, was not realized until a natural storm churned up a crisis so critical.

White Americans acknowledge that in some areas, a bridge was built.  Yet, few wish to admit this association only appears in a time of crisis.  While a scant few channels were opened another, many more were closed.  In other locales, where dark skinned persons were presumably welcome, the Anglo inhabitants roared with resentment.  Reports offered the rationale for what in America is the conventional wisdom of an apprehensive Anglo populace. Karina victims are to blame for an increase in Houston crime.  Certainly, these same “undesirables” would propagate misdeeds wherever they may be; hence, we have Algiers Point.

Granted, pinkish persons in other neighborhoods, even in New Orleans, opened their hearts.  A restaurant proprietor, aware of the depth of destruction, 80 percent of the city was under water, opened their eateries to anyone in need.

Tommy Cvitanovich, co-owner of Drago’s Seafood Restaurant, is but one of what might be many.  This sympathetic fellow spoke of the reason he, his family, and his staff felt they must serve all survivors.  For the entrepreneur, there was no reason to fear.  Mister Cvitanovich, when confronted with the circumstances of his fellow man, felt he could not turn away.  Nor could he, his kin, and the folks they worked with grab a gun and shot at persons who sought food and a safer shelter.  The tale is beautiful and worth a peek.

“For eight weeks we gave away meals.  People were waiting in line,” he says.

For five weeks, the meals were given outside the restaurant.  When the restaurant reopened, Drago’s moved the effort to Lakeview where the need was greater.

“There were no fast food restaurants, no convenience stores or grocery stores open,” he says.  “Most people brought food (from outside the area) Food sources were non-existent.”

In a moment of horror, what is often hidden, good, and bad is revealed.  Honorable Americans such as Tommy Cvitanovich are to be thanked for what their endeavors can teach.  Some persons pale of skin felt the pain of the poorer, less protected population.  However, when the waters receded, might residents of the United States inquire; would benevolence still prosper.  

Several, such a Tommy Cvitanovich might show compassion as they had done in the past.  Yet, we cannot be certain.

In America, sweetness is often subdued by racism.  Much is restrained, not realized, or hidden from view when consternation is prevalent.  When people react to anxiety, rather than act and discover we are not that different, we have what we had in Algiers Point, guns ablaze

Inside and outside of a New Orleans enclave, Caucasians are challenged to conceive that persons of color did not seek to violate the law.  Indeed, white vigilantes victimized those who have, for centuries, been casualties in a civilized American society.

What received less attention from the press and from the paler people is Whites Sought More Katrina Aid Than Blacks.  African-Americans, too often buried by the burden of bigotry, did not know that they might be able to apply or appeal a decision for inadequate assistance.  Nor did some have the means before the tempest to secure property or proper insurance.  What also was and remains out of sight are the financial abuses brownish-purplish persons are victim to.  Credit is not colorblind.

In America, privilege is a white man’s prerogative.  Prosecution is reserved for “other” races.

Tulane University Historian Lance Hill, who runs Tulane’s Southern Institute for Education and Research, has studied the city’s racial divide.  He understands why Algiers Point gunmen have avoided arrest.  “By and large, I think the white mentality is that these people [the Anglo lawbreakers] are exempt–that even if they committed these crimes, they’re really exempt from any kind of legal repercussion.” People of color only commit crime, in the mind of many.

Professor Hill ponders and proclaims; “It’s sad to say, but I think that if any of these cases went to trial, and none of them have, I can’t see a white person being convicted of any kind of crime against an African-American during that period.”  Such is the sound of silence.  When people are blind, or white, racism becomes a more colorful spectrum.

The stories of Algiers Point, and the plight of Katrina, tell a tale too terrible to imagine.  Perchance, that is why in America people prefer to remain colormute.  To report as The Nation did is to attest to what most prefer to hide.  Racism remains rampant in the land of opportunity.  In a country considered great, bigotry is not criminal.  Fear is not a felony.  Trepidation, even with a gun in hand, and shots fired, is fine in United States.  

Apparently, as long as Caucasian citizens transgress only against the unfamiliar, the supposed unruly, persons whose only crime is that his or her skin color is not white will suffer fates so ghastly, even storm waters will not wash the stain away.

Please peruse the portrait of America, “Katrina’s Hidden Race War.”  Ponder what might be too true.  If Americans do not love thy neighbor, if fright rules, no one is authentically free and fewer are brave.

References for Racism . . .

Yes Eddie, There is a country that can!





Watch CBS Videos Online

Obama’s Victory Speech

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

It was the Friday before Election Day 2008.  The sun was low in the sky.  My spirits were also near to the ground.  As the days focused on “change,” turned to months, and near two years, I had begun to lose hope.  Too much time had passed.  The Bush Administration overturned too many laws.  In the recent past, the country had transgressed back into the future.  Others were blissful, certain a better world would come.  I was not confident.  Near an hour before, Eddie, a young man who has lived on Earth for less than a quarter of a century, said he may not vote.  He did not have faith that we, or he, were the change a country could believe in.  for Eddie, “Yes we can” equated to “No he would not.”

Eddie had lost the ability to dream.  As was true for too many Americans, the vision of what could be seemed but an illusion.  For some citizens who, decades earlier, had hoped the country could change, life had become a nightmare.  While this fine fellow may not have experienced a similar sense of dire desperation he did not aspire to do more than he had done.

Twenty-six months earlier, I accidentally discovered Eddie had never participated in an election.  On another occasion, moments after I cast a ballot during a primary campaign, I encountered the knowledgeable fellow. Then, oh so long ago, I learned Eddie had not registered to vote, ever.  When I asked him of his vote in 2006, he admitted, he did not even know an election was held.

I was fascinated, or was I frustrated.  I know not.  I am only certain that more than a year later, when I realized Eddie had submitted his application and received his voter registration card, I was overjoyed.

At that time, Eddie said he only chose to commit to possibly participate in the election process when his college Professor promised he would receive class credit if he registered.  The scholar truly did not expect to feel a deep desire to cast a ballot anytime soon.  Eddie barely paid attention to what went on beyond his personal play.  Parties filled his frame.  Politics, not so much.

Granted, Eddie, an extremely curious soul could carry on a conversation when the discussion turned to government or the economy.  However, way back then, he mostly asked questions and listened.  Eddie was polite when I shared story after story about this political event or that.  He could and did converse on the issues.  Mostly, when we talked, life was the topic of import.

Relationships, realities, reflections, and realizations filled our tête-à-têtes.  In time, we grew closer.  I first met Eddie at the recreation center.  I swim daily and he works as a lifeguard.  Hence, we speak with each other often.

I have witnessed, first-hand, growth I could have never imagined in such a short span.  I always accepted Eddie is very smart.  His curiosity is endless.  Eddie is an eager, enthusiastic student of the world.  He absorbs information like few I have ever known.  It is not what I shared that accelerated his evolution.  Eddie avidly exchanges with everyone.

Perchance, that is why, as the Presidential election became more important to his friends and family.  Eddie began become interested himself.  This fine fellow became the person with whom I could speak when I went to the pool.  He knew what I did.  He read.  He watched.  He tuned into television reports and connected on the Internet.  Eddie was engaged in the election.

Then it happened.  On All Hallows Eve, just before I placed my body into the pool, when I asked if Eddie had voted early, Eddie said, I see no reason to take part.  Barack Obama will win or he will not.  It is destiny.  Our fates are predetermined.  “Whatever occurs,” Eddie explained, “is out of our control.”  He shared his religious philosophies and stories from the Bible to further illustrate this thought.

I tried to reason with him.  I expressed my empathy.  I told tales of when or why I too wondered what was providence and what was within our power.  It was obvious to me, my words were of no avail.  Forlorn, I swam.  What else could I do.  No one can convince another to do what he or she does not wish to do.  I resigned myself to what I could not change, the mind of another human being.  I have long known, people choose for themselves.  Each of us has an effect on another.  Still, true transformations come from within.

As I was awash in water, my mind moved.  I did not think I could offer more to Eddie.  I believed there were no words that might be perceived as wisdom.  Indeed, I am no wiser than he.  I was left to be one with my thoughts.  When I emerged from the concrete pond, I approached Eddie again.

I shared my own story, my personal experience, and why this election, every election means so much to me.  I told Eddie a tale I had offered before.  I first became active in politics as a child.  At age eleven or twelve, I marched with my family in what would be my first Civil Rights demonstration.  

Just before my birth, by law, people of color could not attend school with white folks.  Even after African-American children were finally allowed to attend school with Anglos, there were still numerous other restrictions on persons who were charcoal in color.  Some boundaries were visible, many were not.

“In my lifetime,” I affirmed, “Those whose complexion is dark could not enter a restaurant reserved for people pale of face.”  In the few years that I have been on this planet, segregation was allowed to return to America.  The “privilege” to share a classroom was afforded in the 1954 Supreme Court decision, Brown versus Board of Education, and was virtually rescinded.  I asked Eddie to consider the future of the daughter he and his bride had recently conceived.

Yes, in two short years Eddie had experienced much change, within himself.  He was no longer the party person he had been.  His interest in his own education had grown.  The thoughtful chap now embraced knowledge more than he had before, and Eddie always was quite brilliant.  A booklover, likely from birth, intellectually Eddie grasped the veracity of government.  “Eddie,” I quietly exclaimed, “the President picks Supreme Court Justices.  The appointments last a lifetime.”  The Roberts Court has imposed edicts that will not be easily erased, Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1 Et. Al  

“Oh Eddie,” my voice barely audible at this point, the Supreme Court, under George W. Bush has moved the country to the “Right.”  Some, such as I fear, we have journeyed back more than a century.  Some of the current jurors are elderly.  There is reason to believe a few will choose to step down from the bench.  If we, the people, do not cast a ballot for Barack Obama, I fear the Court, will move farther into the private lives of citizens.

I chattered on.  My characteristic calm demeanor a bit less controlled as saltwater streamed from my eyes. “Eddie, for me, race and discrimination acted out against those of color is not the only issue that must call us to the ballot box.”  There is so much more to consider.  Economic, environmental, and education policies.  “Eddie, think of your college loans, those you may have now and the prospects to pay for your later study.”

“Oh my gosh Eddie,, President Bush may not have been the change I or we would believe in, but he trusted he could do as he wanted.”  I reasoned or attempted to articulate every thought I had, to share my personal history, and relate it to Eddie’s own truth.  Change, I mused, will come.  As individuals or as a country, we may not have control of all occurrences.  Nonetheless, as I learned in Elementary School, “Not to make a decision is to decide.”

In my own life I realized, one by one Americans cast a vote. Collectively, we, the people, choose a President.  The nation’s Chief Executive then selects who will rule the Courts, what regulations he will impose, and which laws he will sign.  “Eddie, in my own life, in yours, we have seen how the President can be the change, or the constituency can be what we believe in.”

Throughout my tearful plea, Eddie was pensive.  He gazed into my eyes.  His stare never left my face.  Then, he asked, was I crying.  Initially, I made an excuse.  “It is the chlorine,” I remarked. Then, more honestly, I said “Yes.”  I tried to tell Eddie how much the election means to me.  I shared my sincerest belief.  The power that each of us has as citizens, if only we realize what we can do when we come together as one . . . My words could not express what I yearned to communicate.  Nevertheless, Eddie thanked me.  He said he would sincerely make an effort to get to the polls, to be part of the solution.

I was at a loss.  I feared I had not said what I might have.  Nor were my words as powerful as they could have been.  In truth, tonight when President Elect Barack Obama stated my sentiments, better than I might ever have done, he said to Eddie what I could not though my tears.  I invite reflection.  Please peruse the words of a man who speaks for all Americans.  Ponder the profundity of “Yes we can!”  

In America, government is as this Presidential campaign has been, of, by, and for the people.  Congratulations and thank you Barack Obama, Joe Biden, you, me, America.  Eddie, I am grateful for your empathy and decision to cast a ballot.  I have faith again; hope is alive. We, Eddie, and all Americans are indeed, the change we can believe in.


Transcript

Obama’s Victory Speech

The New York Times

November 4, 2008

The following is a transcript of Senator Barack Obama’s victory speech in Chicago, as provided by Federal News Service.

Senator Barack Obama: (Cheers, applause.) Hello, Chicago. (Cheers, applause.)

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our Founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer. (Cheers, applause.)

It’s the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen, by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different, that their voices could be that difference.

It’s the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled — (cheers) — Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of red states and blue states; we are and always will be the United States of America. (Cheers, applause.)

It’s the answer that — that led those who’ve been told for so long by so many to be cynical and fearful and doubtful about what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day. It’s been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America. (Cheers, applause.)

A little bit earlier this evening, I received an extraordinarily gracious call from Senator McCain. (Cheers, applause.) Senator McCain fought long and hard in this campaign, and he’s fought even longer and harder for the country that he loves. He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine. We are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader. (Applause.) I congratulate him, I congratulate Governor Palin for all they’ve achieved, and I look forward to working with them to renew this nation’s promise in the months ahead. (Cheers, applause.)

I want to thank my partner in this journey, a man who campaigned from his heart and spoke for the men and women he grew up with on the streets of Scranton, and rode with on the train home to Delaware, the vice president-elect of the United States, Joe Biden. (Cheers, applause.)

And I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last 16 years, the rock of our family, the love of my life, the nation’s next first lady, Michelle Obama. (Cheers, applause.)

Sasha and Malia, I love you both more than you can imagine, and you have earned the new puppy that’s coming with us to the White House. (Cheers, applause.)

And while she’s no longer with us, I know my grandmother is watching, along with the family that made me who I am. I miss them tonight, and know that my debt to them is beyond measure.

To my sister Maya, my sister Auma, all my other brothers and sisters, thank you so much for all the support that you’ve given to me. I am grateful to them. (Cheers, applause.)

And to my campaign manager, David Plouffe — (cheers, applause) — the unsung hero of this campaign who built the best — (cheers) — the best political campaign I think in the history of the United States of America — (cheers, applause) — to my chief strategist, David Axelrod — (cheers, applause) — who has been a partner with me every step of the way, to the best campaign team ever assembled in the history of politics — (cheers) — you made this happen, and I am forever grateful for what you’ve sacrificed to get it done. (Cheers, applause.)

But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to. It belongs to you. (Cheers, applause.) It belongs to you. (Cheers.)

I was never the likeliest candidate for this office. We didn’t start with much money or many endorsements. Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington; it began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and the front porches of Charleston. It was built by working men and women who dug into what little savings they had to give $5 and $10 and $20 to the cause. (Cheers, applause.) It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generation’s apathy — (cheers) — who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep. It drew strength from the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching heat to knock on the doors of perfect strangers, and from the millions of Americans who volunteered and organized, and proved that more than two centuries later a government of the people, by the people and for the people has not perished from the Earth. This is your victory. (Cheers, applause.)

Now, I know you didn’t do this just to win an election, and I know you didn’t do it for me. You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead. For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime: two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century. Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us. There are mothers and fathers who will lie awake after their children fall asleep and wonder how they’ll make the mortgage or pay their doctors’ bills or save enough for their child’s college education.

There’s new energy to harness, new jobs to be created, new schools to build, and threats to meet, alliances to repair.

The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even in one term, but America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you: We as a people will get there. (Cheers, applause.)

Audience: Yes we can! Yes we can! Yes we can! Yes we can! Yes we can!

Mr. Obama:: There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won’t agree with every decision or policy I make as president, and we know the government can’t solve every problem. But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And above all, I will ask you to join in the work of remaking this nation the only way it’s been done in America for 221 years — block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.

What began 21 months ago in the depths of winter cannot end on this autumn night. This victory alone is not the change we seek; it is only the chance for us to make that change.

And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It can’t happen without you, without a new spirit of service, a new spirit of sacrifice. So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other.

Let us remember that if this financial crisis taught us anything, it’s that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers. In this country, we rise or fall as one nation; as one people.

Let’s resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long. Let’s remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House — a party founded on the values of self-reliance and individual liberty and national unity. Those are values we all share. And while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress. (Cheers, applause.)

As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, “We are not enemies, but friends — though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection.” And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn, I may not have won your vote tonight, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your president too. (Cheers, applause.)

And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of the world, our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand. (Cheers, applause.) To those — to those who would tear the world down: we will defeat you. (Cheers, applause.) To those who seek peace and security: we support you. (Cheers, applause.) And to all those who have wondered if America’s beacon still burns as bright: tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals — democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope. (Cheers, applause.)

That’s the true genius of America, that America can change. Our union can be perfected. And what we have already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that’s on my mind tonight’s about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She is a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election, except for one thing: Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old. (Cheers, applause.)

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn’t vote for two reasons, because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin. And tonight, I think about all that she’s seen throughout her century in America: the heartache and the hope, the struggle and the progress, the times we were told that we can’t, and the people who pressed on with that American creed, yes we can.

At a time when women’s voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.

When there was despair in the Dust Bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs, a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.

Audience: Yes we can!

Mr. Obama:: When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.

Audience: Yes we can!

Mr. Obama:: She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that “We shall overcome.” Yes we can.

Audience: Yes we can!

Mr. Obama:: A man touched down on the Moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination. And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change.

Yes we can.

Audience: Yes we can.

Mr. Obama:: America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there’s so much more to do. So tonight let us ask ourselves, if our children should live to see the next century, if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?

This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment. This is our time — to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope; and where we are met with cynicism and doubt and those who tell us that we can’t, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes we can.

Audience: Yes we can.

Mr. Obama:: Thank you. God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America. (Cheers, applause.)

I thank Eddie, Barack, and the American people.  The dream is reborn, and we, as a country, can believe again.  Yes we can!

History Referenced and Realized . . .

Crabs In A Barrel

copyright © 2008 Forgiven. The Disputed Truth

There is a saying in the black community that blacks cannot improve as a people because like crabs in a barrel whenever one tries to climb out of the barrel the other ones will pull him back down. The reaction of some of the so-called black leaders to the success of Senator Barack Obama seems to bear out this analogy. It seems like the closer he gets to making history the more the “haters” try to sabotage him. The sad part about this whole episode is that the same leaders who are critical of the Senator today, should he get elected will be at the White House the day after the inauguration looking for handouts.

The latest in the purveyors of the “crab mentality” is Jesse Jackson, his comments being aired on Fox News about Senator Obama are indicative of this phenomenon. Now I have written extensively about the exploits of Mr. Jackson. From his reshaping of his relationship to Dr. King, to his corporate boycotts that seem to benefit his family, to his love child exploits; Mr. Jackson has demonstrated a lack of personal integrity in my opinion. His recent comments caught on a hot mic during an interview concerning health care policy where he appeared to be promoting the castration of Senator Obama is just the latest in a long line of comments that Mr. Jackson has been allowing to “slip” since it became clear that Senator Obama was going to make a serious run at the nomination.

Jesse Jackson reportedly ripped presidential candidate Barack Obama for “acting like he’s white,” according to The State newspaper in South Carolina, but the civil rights leader says he doesn’t recall making any such comment…He later told the newspaper that he did not remember making the remark, but State reporter Roddie Burris told FOX News that Jackson’s “acting like he’s white” comment came during a 45-minute, one-on-one interview Tuesday after an hour-long speech at Benedict College in Columbia, S.C. Burris said he stands by his report.Fox News

These comments were made back in September of 2007, when the Senator would not bring attention to a rally Mr. Jackson and Al Sharpton were holding for the Jena Six. While the Senator wanted to draw attention to the larger role of race in America, according to Mr. Jackson because Senator Obama didn’t follow his lead then he was acting white. When did Jesse Jackson become the barometer of blackness in America? The comments made by Jackson then and echoed today are representative of more than the generational differences between the two men, but also represent the envy and jealously that is being barely contained on the part of Mr. Jackson.

There are two aspects to the cause of the continued “slips of the tongue” that has plagued Mr. Jackson; the first is the generational gap between the two and how it plays out in their views of America. Mr. Jackson wants Senator Obama to be a black man who is running for President, while Senator Obama views himself as a man who happens to be black running for office. Those seemingly subtle differences in language bridge decades of black life in America.  Senator Obama cannot win running as a black candidate, just as Jesse Jackson could not win. Why Mr. Jackson would want to insure the defeat of Senator Obama is beyond me.  Mr. Jackson still views the nation in terms of the old struggles with the old answers.

According to the article, Jackson called the incident in Jena “a defining moment, just like Selma was a defining moment,” and said Obama’s failure to seize the opportunity to highlight what he describes as a disparate approach to prosecuting whites and blacks demonstrates his weaknesses as a candidate.

“If I were a candidate, I’d be all over Jena,” Jackson said at the historically black college. Fox News

Is there still racism in America? Of course there is, but it’s forms have changed over the years and so it’s alleviation will require new tactics. Tactics Mr. Jackson is either unwilling or unable to grasp. In standing by the old methods of delivering money to urban organizations to mete out to the uneducated masses of poor inner-city people, Mr. Jackson stands to fill his coffers at the expense of his less fortunate brothers and sisters. It is no wonder he is opposed to any new concepts for attacking the problems of the inner-city.

We should consider which man is really “talking down” to black people. The man who speaks of realizing new possibilities and dreaming new dreams with straight talk about those things we are doing to help perpetuate our lack of success or someone who uses simple slogans and rhymes with no details of how to bring about any real change.

Senator Obama will be our next President not because of people like Jesse Jackson, Jeremiah Wright, or the many new “black” Republican commentators who have suddenly been discovered by the MSM, but in spite of them. There is a train leaving the station in America and there will be some folks who won’t get onboard for various reasons, but the train will leave with or without them.

Richard Pryor had a joke he told that encapsulates the current state of black support for Senator Obama from the old guard of civil rights movement. He is not one of them and so he isn’t beholden to any of them. Richard said he use to go home and when his old friends would see him they would say, “Man you ain’t nothing, you wasn’t ever nothing, you was telling them same ole jokes back then, loan me a dollar.

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts.

~ Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Race Relations; Reflections, Realizations, Reactions, and Rejections

RcsmRflctn

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

“Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than that these people are to be free.

Nor is it less certain that the two races, equally free, cannot live in the same government.

Nature, habit, opinion has drawn indelible lines of distinction between them.”


~ Thomas Jefferson  (Autobiography, 1821)

It was a Saturday morning, late in June.  The year was 2008.  In the background, radio broadcaster, Scott Simon could be heard.  The host of Weekend Edition offered his Reflections on Race and the Presidential Election. Alexander listened halfheartedly.  It was not that he was not interested in the topic; he is and he was.  Alex was distracted.  The gentleman glanced over at Donna, a young Jamaican woman he knows so well.  Donna’s skin is as Black as pitch coal and as rich as sweet crude.  She gracefully moves across the room.  He thinks of how he loves the way her hips sway to and fro.  Her voluptuous bosom fills the full cup of her brassiere.  As she bends down to feed his ailing cousin Anna, Alex reflects on how lovely the dark skinned woman is.  His sentiment is not sexual in nature.  Alexander is analytical.

As Alex watches the woman stir, he contemplates human nature.  Recent research fascinates the senior fellow.  For years, Alexander wondered what was the attraction to female breasts and beauty.  He recalled the article he reviewed days earlier, What Women Want (Maybe.) Alexander marveled as he appraised the study.  Rapt by the results as reported, “Looking at a naked man walking on the beach is about as exciting as looking at landscapes,” Alexander wonders of women, men, and how they relate.  How much of what occurs between the sexes is biological?  Are two-legged mammals acculturated?  Do we acquire opinions that then become habits?   Perhaps, had Alex’s attention been elsewhere he would have heard the words Scott Simon uttered as they drifted through the air.  Alexander might have stopped and sputtered as Journalist Simon mused, “How many people can there be who truly don’t know that Senator Obama is black – or care.”  

Alexander definitely knows Presidential hopeful Obama is African-American; and yes, he does care.  Alex would never express his anxiety as blatantly as thousands have.  Nor would he actually join a fellowship of known fanatics.  This white man, genteel in nature, cannot imagine why extremists react as they do.  For Alex, racial discrimination is not a source of pride.  He wonders if that is why much intolerance is hidden, neatly tucked away in the Internet.

Hate Groups’ Newest Target

White Supremacists Report an Increase in Visits to Their Web Sites

By Eli Saslow

Washington Post

Sunday, June 22, 2008; A06

Sen. Barack Obama‘s historic victory in the Democratic primaries, celebrated in America and across much of the world as a symbol of racial progress and cultural unity, has also sparked an increase in racist and white supremacist activity, mainly on the Internet, according to leaders of hate groups and the organizations that track them.

Neo-Nazi, skinhead, and segregationist groups have reported gains in numbers of visitors to their Web sites and in membership since the senator from Illinois secured the Democratic nomination June 3. His success has aroused a community of racists, experts said, concerned by the possibility of the country’s first black president.

“I haven’t seen this much anger in a long, long time,” said Billy Roper, a 36-year-old who runs a group called White Revolution in Russellville, Ark. “Nothing has awakened normally complacent white Americans more than the prospect of America having an overtly nonwhite president.” . . .

“The truth is, we’re finding an explosion in these kinds of hateful sentiments on the Net, and it’s a growing problem,” said Deborah Lauter, civil rights director for the Anti-Defamation League, which monitors hate group activity.  “There are probably thousands of Web sites that do this now.  I couldn’t even tell you how many are out there because it’s growing so fast.”

Granted, extremists do not represent the Grand Old Party, John McCain, or Alexander.  Nonetheless, Alex knows the rise in racist rhetoric demonstrates many care about the undeniable.  Our potential President is a Black man.  Alexander admits, he is not surprised by the speed with which the trend towards intolerance increased once Barack Obama become the presumptive nominee.  The lovely mild-mannered man recalls, Senator Obama was placed under the protection of the Secret Service Agency earlier than any Presidential aspirant had been.  This action, this election is unprecedented.

Alexander recalls the day he read the accounts in the newspaper; the United States Senator from Illinois began his bid for the Oval Office and almost immediately received threats on his life.  It was obvious, Barack Obama and his family were not safe.  Excessive concern for the candidate’s race was expressed.  Bullies observed Barack Obama is Black, and they did not like that.

Journalist Scott Simon might ruminate; these persons play on the fringe.  Fanatics are peripheral to the population.  However, the more moderate man, Alexander has watched as generations of white people exerted extreme power over Black people.  He was also well aware of how Caucasians hid the emotions that had an effect on their every exchange.  Alexander quietly avows on rare occasions, he too does not reveal what he truly feels when in the company of a person of color.

His relationship with Donna may illustrate, the illusive nature of race relations in America.  The two are friendly; they spend much time together.  However, neither feels particularly close to the other.  Each understands they are employer and employee.  Encounters occur for there is a need, physical, financial, practical, and personal only in the sense that when two people come together they cannot help but talk.  Still, a genuine emotional connection is forever elusive.  Neither wishes to create what is not comfortable.

Perhaps, the relationship that exists between Alexander and Donna explains why, the seventeen (17) million persons voted for Barack Obama in the primaries, may not if the realities of racism are emphasized before the general election.  Blacks and whites can come together when the commitment is tentative, but would pinkish persons want their daughters to marry someone that looks like Senator Obama.  Would Anglo Americans wish to place a Black man and his African-American family in the White House.  Could it be that countless who cast a ballot for Barack Obama during the primaries, struggle with the reality that he might become their President and ever so powerful.

Alexander asserts people can be polite when what they perceive to be a potential threat is less than pervasive.  However, Alex, who with great reluctance, voted for  Barack Obama  early in the election season, understands for possibly millions of American citizens, the idea of a Black man as President of the United States is perilous.  

He need only consider his own inner turmoil.  Alex understands what apparently escapes Mister Simon; people care what a color a person is.  The possibility that our President may be a Black is reason for concern.  Bethany grasps what her cousin continually contemplates.  She sees and hears that Alexander relates to the fear others express outwardly.  He is just a bit more refined when he articulates his distress.  A Black man, Barack Obama must not become President of the country he loves.  Alexander is not ready for such a radical transformation.  He often muses, “Why change?”  The man who has made much of his life says with a sigh, “What we have here in America is good.”  He does not trust that an African-American will have his interests at heart.

Alexander battles with what may become a brutal truth, a Black man might lead the nation, indeed, the world!  Animated and with much apprehension and angst, Alex’s wife Mary recounts what she says many assert.  “Barack Obama has an army.”  “I hear it is 2500 strong; maybe it was 25000,” Mary storms.  “You know they are angry people.”  She continues, “You heard what Michele Obama said did you not?” Energized by her own expertise Mary marvels and asks her audience to entertain; “The Obama’s live in a big house.  They have white servants.  Can you imagine that?”  .Implied in her statements, is what Mary says is conventional wisdom.  “Those people are vengeful.”  She reluctantly admits, perhaps, Americans have not treated Senator Obama’s ancestors well.  Nor have our contemporary Caucasian countrymen been kind to people of color.  She then adds, “You know he is Muslim and has ties to terrorist.”

Bethany wonders and asks aloud, “Where did you read this?”  Mary happily responds, confident her sources are credible, “I read it on the Internet.”  The younger cousin inquires might Mary share her references.  Bethany acquaints Mary with what she “knows” to be true.  However, Mary does not hear her. The want for other information wanes, if it was ever really there.

Mary, as her husband Alexander, is a registered Democrat.  Neither ever misses a vote.  For decades, Mary proudly worked at her local election polls.  From dawn until long after dusk she monitors what occurs within her precinct.

Alex does not acknowledge that he agrees with Mary.  Nor does he offer disagreement.  He merely remains absorbed in all that disturbs him personally.

For months Alex wrestled with the fact that as admirable as the candidate’s education might be, as calm as the demeanor of the aspirant is, even when under fire, Barack Obama is Black.  While Alex may wish to think of himself as colorblind and open-minded, he cannot help but question Barack Obama’s qualifications.  Frequently, in conversation, Alex couches his concern.  “The man does not have the necessary experience.”  However, on occasion, and only when in the company of Bethany, a relative who he fondly thinks of as a very good friend, Alex admits he is biased.

He has confessed; it is difficult for him to plead guilty to this truth even to himself.  Alex recognizes he is intolerant of those whose skin is dark.  He fears Black persons he encounters on the street.  He suspects, those whose cocoa brown complexion glistens in the light, engage in criminal activity.  Perchance, had Alexander harkened to the words Scott Simon offered days earlier he would have engaged in a conversation in that moment.    He had many thoughts on the topic.  However, when the Journalist spoke Alexander was absorbed elsewhere.  He pondered, who and what is Donna to him.

Alexander says he does not think of Donna as a servant.  Yet, he recognizes she is an economic slave.  In an abstract way, he is her master.

Donna is an authentic person, equal to Alex in every way, except for the fact that she is not.  The wondrous white man may never wish to divulge as three (3) in ten (10) Americans did.  He is biased.  In a very recent Washington Post – ABC News poll, people acknowledged a prejudice.  Alexander may be inclined to think the Black women with who he engages, or any person of color, is perhaps less profound than a Caucasian certainly is.  For this carefree chap, who openly chats with many a Black person, the race of an individual creates an impression, although he appreciates this is often unconscious.  

Alexander assumes, since he frequently converses with people whose epidermis is the color of bittersweet chocolate he knows what it means to be an African-American, Jamaican, Haitian, or just dark in skin tone.  While he may honor an individual Black person who he associates with, none of the labels Alex would apply to this group of people as a whole is good.  Much as he tries to be tempered when he associates with people purplish-brown in hue, some would say Alexander is a bigot, a well-camouflaged racist.

Most may not see the subtleties of Alexander’s prejudice.  Likely, he does not realize how deep his predispositions are.  Alexander does not think of himself as intolerant.  Perchance, he would be among the fifty-three percent in the Washington Post – ABC News survey who presume race relations in America are superior.  

In truth, Alex is a bit more realistic.  He realizes there are problems.  He has said himself, prejudice is prevalent.  However, he might quickly add, skin color does not cloud his vision.  Alex believes he is merely selective in his associations. Perchance, he adopted his parents’ opinions, or habits.  Alex is not naïve enough to think nature keeps the races separate and unequal.  He only knows what is and always was, at least as long as he recalls.

The self-proclaimed aware and astute fellow believes there are a few special persons, no matter the skin color.  He just happens to associate more with those fair of face.  That does not mean he excludes African-Americans from his life.  

The ones that once worked for him when he owned his own business were wonderful men . . . as far as he could tell.  They were polite.  The delivery drivers did their work.  These burly men, brown as the bark on a weathered oak tree, never complained.  There was Natalie, and Josephine; they nursed his mother to health.  Certainly, Donna is a delight.

Donna knows her place.  She fills a necessary space in Alexander and Anna’s life.  The purplish hue cast by the beautiful brown complexion of this woman ensures that she will never be seen or treated as a peer, at least not by the cousins who employ her.  When the white man and woman gaze upon Donna, they forever see her as a Black person.  Thankfully, they say, she is not an African-American.  Those people cannot be trusted.

“Just ask her,” Alex says to his very close “friend” Bethany.  “Donna will tell you.”  “American Blacks are lazy,” he continues.  “They do drugs.”  Donna says, “It is true.  Those Black people born in this country just collect welfare.”  She speaks of her son, Christopher.  “Look at him; he was awarded a full scholarship.”  Beaming with pride, the Health Care Aide reminds everyone in the room, when Christopher was a Senior in High School, he was one of three, nationwide selected to attend a prestigious college.  Her son, she boasts, is motivated.  He is a scholar, not like those “Black boys” native to America.

Alexander listens and nods.  Donna affirms his opinions are not racist.  He has reason to believe as he does.  “Did you hear what Donna said,” he asks his companion.  “See.  She knows.”  Exasperated and in a desire to prove his point, Alex points to Donna and reminds his confidant, “She is a woman of color!”  

The conversation began innocently enough.  Alexander wanted to explain why he could not in good conscious cast a ballot for Barack Obama.  The older white man had done his duty in the primaries.  Perhaps, his vote for Senator Obama affirmed he is not a bigot.  Alexander actually did vote for the Senator from Illinois in the Spring of the year.  He hesitantly speaks of how he had to.

The World War II veteran had no other choice.  No, he did not approve of Barack Obama then.  Nor does he condone crass humor as was exhibited at the Texas Republican Convention just days before Scott Simon made his comment.

Mr. Alcox said he made 12 of the pins after seeing a comic strip where Barack Obama was standing in front of a sign saying “The White House,” with the building behind him.  Mr. Obama is depicted thinking, “That’s the first thing we’ll change.” . . .

The offending pin stated: “If Obama is president . . . Will we still call it the White House?” . . .

“Obviously, it’s been offensive to people. It was not meant to be that way. We’re into humor – not racism,” Mr. Alcox said.

Regardless of the intent, many were offended.  Bigotry only begets belly laughs from other bigots.  The object of intolerance, if given the opportunity can speak to what eludes the prejudice.  However, in a nation where an esteemed broadcaster expresses a wishful belief as truth, no one “cares” what color Barack Obama, a Black man is, few take the time to probe beyond what they think correct.  Americans are not colorblind as they claim to be.  They are colormute and hence, frequently insensitive.  On the rare occasion when Blacks and Caucasians speak of racism much is resolved, empathy expands.

(Mr. Alcox) said after having a conversation with a black man who called him about the blog post, he came to understand more about the nerve he had hit.

Sadly, prior to this incident it seems the vendor did as Alexander does.  While cordial and conversant with people of every color, bias against those of color is not typically, if ever the topic.  He did discuss the elections with Donna.  He even asked her what she thought of Barack Obama.  “You remember Bethany.  Donna thinks Black Americans are worthless.”

That is why Alexander was able to do as he did in good conscience.  Earlier in the year, Alex went to the polls as a good citizen does and was handed a Democratic ballot.  He is a registered Democrat; however, only in the primaries does he usually vote for someone in his Party.  

Before, the presumptive Presidential aspirants were assured, Alex was certain he would have, voted for Mitt Romney.  He is white . . . (Did he say that aloud) highly educated; he comes from good stock.  His father and he were successful Governors.  More importantly, each accrued ample wealth.  Alexander is a very affluent man, self-made.  He admires such qualities, that is unless the erudite, esteemed man, or woman is Black, although, Alex is careful never to say that directly, not even when with Bethany.  He is embarrassed by his bigotry.  

At times, he does softly state what he hopes will remain a secret.  He does not wish for others to know what he is unwilling to acknowledge to himself.  Still, almost inaudibly he has told Bethany.  He has little tolerance for people whose complexions are dark.  Alexander hopes he can trust his truest thoughts and feelings with his cousin and best friend Bethany.  History tells him, with her, he is safe.  The relationship is one of reciprocal reverence.  Bethany shares her heart, soul, and all her stories with Alex.  The two learn of what they never imagined when together.

They also share a common bond, many in fact.  Most significant in this election season, Alex and Bethany each harbored much disdain for Hillary Clinton.  Neither struggle with the idea of a woman President.  It was only that woman!  Bethany understands why Alex did not vote for the New York Senator.  “Bobby,’ as she likes to be called, could not consider the former First Lady either.

However, Bobby remains unconvinced that Alexander would chose to cast a ballot for Barack Obama when it counts.  She recalls the day Alexander quietly revealed, “Maybe I am prejudice.”  Bethany had helped Alex to realize what he never considered before.  As a child, she, who is also pinkish in color, was raised with a Black family as much as her own.  She has never felt as though she was Caucasian.  This feminine Anglo American notices what many white persons do not, she is intensely cognizant of color.  Bobby, unlike countless whose skin is light is very aware of what is whispered to her.  What may not mean much to those who think themselves colorblind

When with a white acquaintance Bobby will feel a tug on her arm.  “Let us cross the street,” the friend says suddenly.  Bobby wonders; why might her colleague seem so distraught.  She looks ahead and the answer is revealed.  A group of Black men appeared up the avenue.

Bethany hears the hushed tones.  In a casual conversation, when a person of a particular color is identified, clarification is also offered.  “He or she is Black you know.”  This classification is meant to explain why that individual might think, say, do, feel, or be as he or she is.

A brilliant African-American is not merely a gifted and talented artist, academic, athlete, or author.  He or she is “Negro” first.  Then, the deftness is discussed.  “Actually,” the inference is, “the fact that this individual is a person of color makes them more exceptional.”

Most of us recall a cavalier comment offered by a prominent, practiced politician little more than a year ago.  Delaware Senator, and former Presidential spirant, said of his friend, Barack Obama, “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy,” Biden said. “I mean, that’s a storybook, man.”  Of, course the remark was followed by an apology. “I really regret that some have taken totally out of context my use of the world “clean.” The sorrowful Senator explained.   “My mother has an expression: clean as a whistle, sharp as a tack.”  Neither the regret, nor revelation, would lessen the blow of bigotry.  If a person is Black, he or she may bow and accept what has become too familiar.  An Anglo may never notice such remarks.  Extremely offensive evaluations make sense when they are all you have ever heard.

Barbara Trepagnier, Sociology Professor at Texas State University-San Marcos has written much on the subject of Silent Racism.  She speaks of the culture of consciousness that evades many white Americans.  Ms Trepagnier, on the topic of careless commentary reflected on another incident.  She was reminded of Trent Lott and the callous statement he offered at former segregationist Strom Thurmond’s 100th birthday celebration.  Then two, the orator offered a defense.  The Sociologist declared . . .

“I argue when we say things off the cuff, that’s what we really mean,” Trepagnier said. “His comments weren’t taken out of context.”

Her book contends that “silent racism” fosters routine actions not recognized by an individual as racist, but upholds the status quo.

Trepagnier says that this form of superiority remains prevalent in American society, and is a major reason African-Americans continue to struggle. Blacks are outperformed by their white counterparts in most social demographics, including factors such as education, employment, and income. She says that whites that deny the existence of racism or dismiss it as unimportant are often protecting white privilege.

Trepagnier says that some whites become detached from the race issue while others are so concerned with it that they become apprehensive about it, avoiding even the mention of the topic. In both cases, this passive stance silently provides the racist actions of others an endorsement, or worse, encouragement.

Alexander’s confidant Bethany does not negate what is too obvious to her.  Nor does she mindlessly wish to advance such postures.  Bobby shares her stories and feelings with Alex, if only to further his awareness.  

When Bethany is accompanied on a dinner date, she feels the stares when her cohort is a man of color.  The conversation with a server differs dependent on her company.  People at the next table are more likely to engage the couple when Bobby is with a white man.  When in a restaurant of quality, Bethany observes if there are many or any Black persons about, they are often the hired help.  Rarely is the clientele shades of purplish brown or Black in hue.  Mostly, people are light; skin tones are parchment in color.

When in the mall together, strolling down the street, in the bank, or other place of business, Bobby and Alex see numerous African-Americans.  Contrary to Scott Simon’s contention, each of them cares to recognize these persons are Black.  

Alex intentionally associates with people of color.  He hopes to work through the habitual bigotry that bothers him.  Bethany also engages.  She is aware her personal history shades her sense.  Black people are for her beautiful, inside and out.

The sensitive gentleman, Alexander, truly feels for those who are not treated as well as he is.  Bobby yearns to build bridges.  For so long she felt alone in her desire to end discrimination.  Frustration with a colormute community consumed her. The two think of what it might mean to those whose skin is ebony in color, black as coal, coffee brown, or cinnamon spice, if Barack Obama becomes President.   What will it mean to Anglos such as Bobby or Alex if Barack Obama becomes the world’s leader.  

Millions may think the possibility is beautiful.  “I am Black and I am proud.”  A few might be as Bethany,  whose skin may be a sweet pink, but whose soul was joyous soaked in a world of brilliantly rich color.  Millions could be ready to create the change that was once unimaginable.  For billions this possibility is still but a dream, or a nightmare.  Alexander, who has witnessed much history doubts that anyone is indifferent.  

Much is unspoken.  More is said in a subtle manner.  Reflections on race relations in America are approached and avoided.  People worldwide care and ponder the color of Presidential hopeful Barack Obama.  They just may not chatter freely or have the forum Commentator Scott Simon does.  If we are ever to move beyond bigotry perhaps, we must acknowledge, what is “politically more injurious” is not the insinuation of racism; it is the reality.  Mister Simon, might I suggest, people care about the color of a Presidential candidates skin.

Post Script . . .

Dearest Scott Simon . . .

While many may believe it is disingenuous for Barack Obama to claim the funds raised for his campaign will fight racism in America, it is no more sincere to deny the truth that racial discrimination flourishes.  Might people also consider Senator Obama and others who fear what will be in this campaign season feel they have reason to-reaction to a historical habit they know too well.  I believe, if we are to cure the ills associated with skin color, we must empathically speak to what is pervasive and persistent on this planet.  

People embrace habits and opinions as though they are facts of nature.  We all do this, whether we are Black, white, brown, red, yellow, olive, or pink.  Republicans, Democrats, and Independents are not exempt.  Greens, I shutter to say, are also two-legged creatures trapped in a prison they think rational and reasonable.  Perchance, it is time for humans to transform.  I wish to support a campaign slogan I believe is strongly needed, “Let change begin with me.”

References, Reflections, Race Relations . . .

Drug Wars VIII

copyright © 2008 Forgiven. The Disputed Truth

Originally Published, May 8, 2008

Sometimes writing these essays are a chore and seem demanding, then there are other times when they seem to write themselves, this is one of the latter. I have written extensively about America’s war on drugs and all the ills and problems that it has caused. First of all let me state that I am not a conspiracy theorist. I do not believe that racism is involved in every aspect of life in America, at least it hasn’t been in my life. However, there are times when it plays a major role in how we interact with one another. The war on drugs and the death penalty are probably two of the most egregious ways in which racism does play a role in America. The recent results of a couple of studies highlight the disparity in our criminal justice system that can not be explained by any other means.??

?More than two decades after President Ronald Reagan escalated the war on drugs, arrests for drug sales or, more often, drug possession are still rising. And despite public debate and limited efforts to reduce them, large disparities persist in the rate at which blacks and whites are arrested and imprisoned for drug offenses, even though the two races use illegal drugs at roughly equal rates.

??Two new reports, issued Monday by the Sentencing Project in Washington and by Human Rights Watch in New York, both say the racial disparities reflect, in large part, an overwhelming focus of law enforcement on drug use in low-income urban areas, with arrests and incarceration the main weapon.

Ok, here is the short course of racism in America. Drug addiction has no respect of person, it affects blacks and whites in similar numbers. It is not a black issue or a white issue. The difference is in how it is prosecuted in both communities. The drug war has always been depicted by the politicians and the media as a black inner-city issue, as if there were no drug problems in white suburbia. So if we are using drugs at roughly the same numbers then how can one explain that more than 50% of all persons sent to prison for drug crimes are black? These are not traffickers and distributors, these are mostly possession cases.

?Here is how you devastate a community and destroy its future. You begin by arresting its young men for minor drug offenses in a depressed economy. Once arrested you prosecute them for felony convictions. Once they have been convicted or have pled guilty then you have sentenced that young person to a life of hopelessness. That young person has forfeited all rights to achieve any semblance of legitimate success. Once they have received a felony conviction they are no longer eligible for education grants, most government programs that target the poor, or be able to participate in the most basic form of citizenship by voting. One simple arrest by outside observation has actually removed this young person from competing in our society in any meaningful way in the future.

?

?Two-thirds of those arrested for drug violations in 2006 were white and 33 percent were black, although blacks made up 12.8 percent of the population, F.B.I. data show. National data are not collected on ethnicity, and arrests of Hispanics may be in either category.??

“The race question is so entangled in the way the drug war was conceived,” said Jamie Fellner, a senior counsel at Human Rights Watch and the author of its report.

“If the drug issue is still seen as primarily a problem of the black inner city, then we’ll continue to see this enormously disparate impact,” Ms. Fellner said.

Her report cites federal data from 2003, the most recent available on this aspect, indicating that blacks constituted 53.5 percent of all who entered prison for a drug conviction.

By prosecuting the drug war in the way we are doing it, we are providing cover for racism to continue. We are spending 70% of our resources targeting inner-city and rural white neighborhoods as if these are the people importing the drugs from the foreign capitals and making the billions in profits. The people we are targeting for the most part are such major players in the drug trade most can’t even afford attorneys at trial. So where are all these drug profits going? I can tell you they are not being spent in my neighborhood, the occasional new pair of Jordan sneakers or chrome rims can hardly be presented as some large criminal enterprise.??

Are drugs devastating our inner-city neighborhoods? Of course they are, but the solution is not to destroy the village to save it. Many in the black community are tired of the drug trade with its inherent crime and violence, but the way it is being combated today only creates more strife. We must develop alternatives to incarceration and the ruining of lives. The drug war has decimated the black community and has created an atmosphere of fear and distrust of those who are paid to protect us. All of us make mistakes especially during our youth, we mustn’t compound those mistakes by ruining their lives with felony convictions. While whites are offered diversionary programs to avoid felony records blacks are continually being placed in the system. We want crime reduced, but not at the expense of our future.??

Where does it all begin and how does the ball get rolling. I read a story recently on the numbers of street stops being made by the NY city police and the numbers are staggering. There are similar numbers for traffic stops in communities across America. If we continue to target only one community then naturally the crime statistics are going to be skewed towards that group. The war on drugs has allowed this country to choose what group to prosecute and what communities to devastate under the cover of law and order. No one can argue the legality of what is being done, but what about the morality of it???

Street stops have gradually increased, to 508,540 in 2006 from 97,296 in 2002, according to departmental statistics. Because more than half of those stopped were black, the increases led some police critics to suggest that minorities were being unfairly singled out, though the police reject such claims.??

“The numbers are troubling both because of the number of people stopped and because blacks continue to be, overwhelmingly, the ones who are stopped,” Mr. Dunn said. “Someone outside the Police Department, like the mayor’s office, the City Council or the Justice Department has now got to step in and demand a public accounting of the department’s stop-and-frisk practices.”

The issue isn’t that blacks are committing more crimes despite the constant images being displayed on the nightly local news. The issue is that blacks are more likely to be stopped and searched than whites. If the police were to use the same tactics in the suburbs as they use in the inner-city I guarantee you the number of whites arrested would increase. And if they were sentenced in the same manner as blacks there would be a national outcry. Imagine if 50% of young white males were given a felony conviction in their early teens and were rendered useless from that point on. The war on drugs has allowed those with racist attitudes to institute those beliefs under the cover of legitimate crime fighting.??

References . . .

Divisive or Descriptive?

copyright © 2008 Forgiven. The Disputed Truth

The Reverend Jeremiah Wright spoke at the Detroit Chapter of the NAACP’s annual fundraising event over the weekend. The speech was carried by CNN live and allowed Reverend Wright to speak to his critics while at the same time speaking to the larger theme of the event which was, “A Change is Gonna Come.” Like so much of what occurs in American society the speech will be evaluated based on the listener’s frame of reference. For many in the black community the speech will be hailed as brilliant and will demonstrate Reverend’s Wright superior intellect and skilled articulation talents. For some in the white community it will be misconstrued and reinforce their views of him as being divisive. How is it possible that so many people can hear the same speech and yet reach so many different conclusions?

Are we so divided and so different that we can’t even acknowledge our differences. And having once acknowledged those differences can we not celebrate them or are we so tribal that anyone who is not exactly like us we view as deficient? In rhetoric and language befitting a leader in the black Church, Dr. Wright attempted to characterize the differences we share and their history to depict why there are those who are either unable or unwilling to understand his past characterizations of the country that he served. Let’s be clear, many of those who are questioning the patriotism of Reverend Wright have themselves chosen for whatever reasons not to serve their country, except as Mitt Romney so aptly described by campaigning for their fathers. Reverend Wright served this country as not only a Marine, but also as a member of the US Navy.

I am no expert in democracy or in Constitutional law, but I believe that if someone chooses to place his life on the line in defense of this nation, a nation that for a long time refused to apply equal protection for all of its citizens, has a right to criticize that same nation. I am so sick and tired of this false wing-nut narrative that anyone who criticizes America is anti-America or anyone who does not wear a flag lapel pin is giving aid and comfort to terrorists. As if to say that anything and everything that has been done in America and by America has been right. Forgive me, but my take on the Freedom of Speech clause is that as members of a democracy we have the right to criticize or to praise our nation as we see fit. Whether you agree with his views or not, Reverend Wright has every right to express them. Why is it that we have to display our war stance when it comes to surrendering our civil rights, but we do not have to display it when it comes to making actual sacrifices for the effort?

While I agree with the basic premise of Reverend Wright’s speech which is, why must everything and everyone be placed under “the white man’s burden?” For those who are not aware the white man’s burden is to elevate the blacks, reds, browns, and yellows of this world to the grand standard of Western European culture, as if to say no other culture has brought anything to the world but them. Just because you are a bully that doesn’t make you right, it just makes you a bully. If it were not for the Native American culture, those great European settlers would have never survived in this hemisphere. There are those who expect those of us who have received the brunt of American discrimination and racism to quietly accept our fate and anyone who “describes” those atrocities are being divisive. Are we to believe that those perpetrating these atrocities are doing so with the purpose of unifying us as a Nation?

Where I take exception with Reverend Wright and any other spokesman of God, is that while it is important to speak out against injustice and all the other deficiencies in human character, one must do so in a different forum than the Church. I understand that for many years in the black community the Church was the only release for the frustration and anger many felt with their conditions; however one must separate the worldly from the spiritual.

In other words, it is a sin to steal yet there maybe extenuating circumstances to mitigate the stealing. Those mitigating circumstances cannot be a part of the message of the Church against stealing, that message must be delivered outside of the Holy proclamation. Social causes while important must not be allowed to interfere with the true message of the Church. The Apostle Paul only preached one sermon repeatedly; “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”*

Representatives of God should not use the altar to assail their brothers no matter how large their shortcomings. One can acknowledge evil and injustice in a way that does not cast aspersions on any one group. Evil and inhumanity knows no color or race. The recent blood-letting in Africa can attest to that fact. In my opinion pointing out the ills of a government should not be done from the pulpit, but from the soap box in the public square. Ministers should separate the Church from social commentary, just as we have separation of Church and state for the protection of the Church, we also need it for the protection of the Republic. While it is becoming increasingly difficult in our society to “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to give to God what is God’s, it is a distinction we must maintain at all costs.

* 1 Corinthians 2:2

The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie — deliberate, contrived and dishonest — but the myth — persistent, persuasive and unrealistic ~ John F. Kennedy

What recruiters will not tell you?



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Iraq war veteran, Herold Noel; homeless.

© copyright 2008 Michael Prysner.  Party for Socialism and Liberation

Originally Published on Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The truth about military ‘opportunities’

Employment opportunities are a pillar of military recruitment.  Recruiters focus much of their efforts on low-income schools and communities, promising that the military provides valuable skills and job training.

Television commercials for the Army often show soldiers transitioning into the professional world, depicting military service as a guaranteed stepping-stone to success.  The Army airs television commercials showing soldiers in uniform transforming into professionals in suits and lab coats.

The idea that one can serve a short term in the military and emerge a valued, marketable worker attracts youth fearful of life after high school, as well as older workers who struggle under capitalism.  While many join the military hoping for a better life for themselves and their families, the reality is that veterans actually experience a dramatically higher rate of unemployment.

A recent study by consulting firm Abt Associates Inc. discovered that a staggering 18 percent of veterans who sought work within one and three years of their discharge were unemployed.  The current unemployment rate in the United States is 4.9 percent, showing that veterans are far more likely to suffer unemployment than civilians.

Of the veterans who do find employment, 25 percent earn less than $21,840 annually.  The study said that the reasons veterans are denied jobs are the very things they hoped to overcome when they joined the military-lack of technological skills and poor education.

The issue of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has been a difficult obstacle for veterans trying to return to civilian life.  The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers severely inadequate assistance.  The study also revealed that employers are less likely to hire veterans because they fear a mental condition.  Veterans with PTSD not only have to struggle with their own inner demons and the effect it has on their families; they are also discriminated against by employers for their condition.

The reserves uses the potential for quality employment as a recruiting tool much more than the active-duty military, promoting the idea of a “citizen soldier” who is in the military for only one weekend a month.  Reservists are convinced that they will receive job training and education, and have the freedom to pursue a career while serving a small obligation to the military.

As it turns out, reservists are finding themselves locked into active-duty status and being sent on repeated deployments.  Moreover, they are also being denied their jobs when they return.  The Labor Department has reported high rates of formal job complaints filed by reservists.  In 2006, 1,357 reservists filed formal complaints after being refused their old jobs upon returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

While thousands of veterans struggle to find employment after leaving the military, many cannot even find a place to live.  The VA refuses to track the number of homeless veterans.

The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans estimates hundreds, perhaps thousands, of soldiers who fought in Iraq or Afghanistan are homeless or living in shelters.  Over 1,200 homeless veterans have received help from NCHV.  However, groups aiding homeless veterans assert that this number reflects only a fraction of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who are homeless.

When compared with the rate of homeless veterans following the Vietnam War, the future of veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan looks very grim.  Vietnam veterans who became homeless did so after spending five to 10 years trying to readjust to civilian life.  Veterans of the current wars are ending up with no place to live after only 18 months.

The problems veterans face upon separating from the military-lack of jobs, alcohol and drug abuse, denial of benefits, suicide, homelessness-all stem from the same root cause.  The military-industrial complex has one goal in mind: profit.

The U.S. government spends millions on a single bomb, but will not spend an adequate amount establishing support systems for veterans once they return from combat.  The massive military budget is used to increase the wealth of the capitalists, while the veterans of their imperialist wars are tossed into poverty.

The deteriorating conditions for veterans and the increasing number of problems they must face reveal the true nature of this war: profits over people.

Michael Prysner is an Iraq war veteran running for Congress (22nd District – Florida.) as a candidate of the Party for Socialism and Liberation.  For more on his campaign click here.