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…

Hung. Hung Over. Hung Up. Hung Out To Dry


copyright © 2010 Betsy L. Angert.  Empathy And Education; BeThink or  

With news of Congressman Anthony Weiner’s indiscretions the word “Hung” has frequently been heard. “Hung Over” too entered our conversations.  Many asked if he was.   “Hung Up” played a powerful role in reflections. “Hung Out to Dry” seems to be the consensus.  Crowds of Congressmen and women, citizens from each political Party, and even those who claim no loyalties, say, The Representative must be renounced. Few wish to admit that Anthony Weiner is but you and me.  

Supreme Court Justices, who served under Chief Jurist Brennan, perhaps, make three.  Any of us might easily say, as the Justices did decades ago; on the subject of obscene or outrageous, “I Know It When I See It.”  We each do. Still, the definitions vary.

While few of us are officially appointed to write “codes” of conduct, as the Supreme Court Justices are, we too avidly watch the actions of another and judge.

“That man is hung. He knows it and shows it.”  Albeit, not to his friends.  He hides.  She is often hung over.  Yet, she says nothing of her excessive drinking to her loved ones.  She hides. I binge. I purge or did for twenty-five years and three months. I devoted sixteen hours a day to this truth.  Food was my folly.  Discuss my doings with others? I too hid.

We are each hung up. Whether others hang us out to dry or not, everyone has hanged him or herself.  We punish ourselves for not being what we think is good enough, smart enough, successful enough, sensational enough, sexy or even sane.  Rather than say we are preoccupied with our own self-perceived inadequacies, we act out.   Some drink or do drugs in abundance.  Countless persons jump from job-to-job or relationship-to-relationship.  For most of the latter, this equates to hopping from bed-to-bed.  Serial marriages are not uncommon.  Multiple sex partners in a lifetime are even more common.  Indeed, these are so prevalent people do not think to gossip about what so many of us, do daily.  Even those intertwined in wedded bliss belie the notion of monogamy and few blink an eye.  

While I indulged in more than my fair share of “intimate” escapades, my chosen weapon for self-destruction was food.  No matter how much I ate, which was usually enough for perhaps, fifty persons in a single day, it did not fill me up. I hoped it would; however, food never satisfied my enormous appetite.  I was forever hungry!  I craved a connection, not to a person, place, or thing.  I wanted to feel connected to me . .  whatever that might have meant.  I was unsure.  I only knew that I did not trust that I could ever be what I imagined everyone else was.

Oddly, or unexpectedly enough, what saved me was what I feared the most. I told a very close friend. While I was nowhere near the end of my self-destructive path, I knew I had to reveal what I truly believed all would reject, my flaws, my foibles, in unadulterated honesty, me.

One day, while home, engaged in a conversation with a chum of near fifteen years, I took the plunge.  “Cher,” I said with much hesitation “I need to tell you something.” Even now, years later, I remember the wave of anxiety that swept over me at the time.  As close as I was to Cher, and by the way I still am, I was sure she would reject me.  Nonetheless, I took a deep breath.  I sat down on the stairs in my home. I needed to.  I did not think my legs would support me if I stood.

I clutched the telephone, looked down, and began to speak.  I do not remember a word I said.  All I recall was how certain I was; Cher would lose all respect for me. She would be critical.  She could never understand.  In truth, nor could I.  Again, I was wrong, thankfully.

All that I assumed Cher would think, say, do, and feel, she never did.

Cher was there for me, with me.  I smile when I think of how much closer we have become.  Before that conversation, Cher had expressed astonishment at the reality of our friendship: She and I were so tight, now more so.

But the depth and details of that story are ones for another day.  In contrast, what I went through, or imagined I would, could not begin to compare with the agony Barry anticipated.  His transgressions, oh my.  Please ponder the tale.

A good friend, a successful man in his early sixties, Barry spent his entire adult life behind bars.  He was imprisoned by his sense of self.  In his pre-teen years, possibly as late as the age of sixteen, he had done a wrong.  Barry molested his younger sister.  

At the time, he was a good Catholic boy.  He attended Catholic schools all his life.  His family was active in their neighborhood Parish.  Barry was not rebellious, or a rabble-rouser.  He did not rant, rage; nor did he reject his teachings.  

Barry grew up in a home where sex was never discussed.  Demonstrative gestures were not placed on view.   His parents were forever proper.  Barry, in pre-puberty and his adolescent years was confused when he felt sexual feelings.  He was certain these were sinful.  Indeed, he believed his very essence was an error. Barry felt as though he was the scourge of the Earth, the devil incarnate.  He wanted so much to understand, to speak with someone, any one, but whom.

Conversations on the subjects of sex nay sexuality were never heard in his home. The church offered no answers.  Certainly, shamed by the sensations, he felt he could not discuss the topic with classmates.  There was no one he trusted to chat with or to.  Hence, Barry acted out.  He acted on what overwhelmed him, raging hormones, inner conflicts, and his confusion. When his younger sister, Rena, was asleep, he entered her room and her body.  Ultimately, the young man felt more miserable, less deserving of the life given to him than he had before he did such a dastardly deed.

The boyish-man, a mere innocent child, thought the girl would tell their parents.  Barry imagined this would open the door to the conversations he craved.  Rena never said a word about what occurred, not to her mother, her father, or her brother.  Barry wondered; did she never know what he did?  The wonder gnawed at him.  Barry could not continue to do as he had done whether Rena was awake or not.  He sealed his soul in silence, as he later learned Rena had.

Indeed, the “girl” did not speak of the events for eons.  The five or more times Barry penetrated her being became his secret.  That is, until Rena was in her late fifties.  Barry’s sister, silent, as he was for all those decades spoke up.

While neither expressed the pain in words before, it was now obvious.  Each experienced their hurts in great depth.  Throughout the course of their lives, the two had dived deeper into all that distracted them.

Barry and Rena excelled in school.   The pair showed, or pretended to show the world and themselves that they were good, or at least good enough.  On the surface the brother and sister soared.  Parents, whose mere disapproval could do more damage, for all those years, never knew.  Nor would anyone else.  

Others opinion of us can cut to the core.  Our opinions of ourselves cut deeper.  Wounds, while not visible, scar a soul.   Rena and Barry surmised they could sear the lesion.  Still, blood was spilled in the form of tears and fears.  Facades were erected in hopes that these would serve to protect fragile hearts.  

The brother and sister built prominent, professional résumés.  In their chosen careers, the siblings achieved great success.  Both married, grew their families, formed fine images.  Yet, neither felt whole.  The two hid . . . from others and themselves.

Food became their friends, more so than mates.  All that mattered was the need to hide.  Silence and secrets sealed their fate.  At home, at work, with family, and the few friends each had, neither was happy.  Rena and Barry were as they are, or would be until the day the dam broke.

When Rena opened up, she instantly blamed Barry for her plight. Likely she had for all those years.  Rena did not know that Barry too placed the onus on himself.  He took full responsibility and does.  

Today, just as I had done earlier, as Anthony Weiner did days ago, Barry works to share what he created, a casket for himself.  More significantly, he has risen from the dead.  Barry opened the door and invited his sister in.  He asked for a conversation. Rena said no.  In actuality, she wrote this in a mail.  Rena wants no contact.  She does not wish to discuss what was or is with anyone.  While she has made some changes in her life… by all appearances, her circumstances remain the same.

However, Barry, while devastated at first, slowly found himself.  Barry said to me, someone he thought of as his one close friend, that he had been haunted by this incident forever.  He recalled and reflected on the similarities of our experiences.  I too hid my self-destructive behavior for a very long time.  Granted, I chose to speak of it before my recklessness became known. Still, once the secret was out in the open I was freed.

Barry remembered how my life changed, or my sense of self did, once Cher knew me at my worse.  He wanted that strength for himself.  Barry began to look at every aspect of his life.  He mused as his favorite musician had; If you are not busy being born, you are busy dying.”  Bobby D and Barry. Indeed.  Barry chose to get busy, to thrive rather than merely survive.

Little by little he sought solace in other than food [What only Barry knew of in the past was also revealed and rejected.  The sort of sex, which might be defined as debauched, was left behind.  Drink to drunkenness was another habit forfeited.]  All was replaced with revelation.  First Barry needed to introduce himself to himself.  The wounded wonder for the being he was had been so severely depressed, Barry had blindly walked through his life.   He was uncertain; who might Barry be.

The process was and is painstakingly measured.  Each step was evaluated.  Barry stumbled. He fell. Then, as a Phoenix, he rose again.  Today, the more Barry tells the tale the more empowered he feels.  He had never realized the power to punish was his alone.  Only he could hurt himself as he had.  

Just as I discovered when I shared my truth with Cher, Barry exclaims, the people who love and like you for who you are, as you are, are those well-aware of your every flaw, foible, and failure.  Indeed, that is the reason others appreciate you as they do.  You are you; he is he.  I am me.  As silly as it seems, we each are or have been self-destructive at times.

Still, as individuals we are unique.  That is truly special.  Our experiences teach us, and those we touch.  Were any of us to ever admit to ourselves that the strong are vulnerable, were we to value that vulnerability, perchance none of us would engage as we do, in lurid behaviors.

Insecure? Nay few show it aloud.  Yet, each of us is. “Regrettable” actions? Guilty as charged. Congressman Anthony Weiner owned his.  The Representative has availed himself of an opportunity to learn, grow, and glow greater.  He has found, just as Barry and I did, the persons’, who had cared for him most, still do.  Might you?   Might you see yourself in another human, one who was self-destructive and has decided to walk the road to recovery?  Will you?

References. Realities. Resources  . . .


Sex and the Super Bowl

copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.

Citizens in the United States are complicated, complex, and mostly they act in ways that are contrary to what they profess to believe in.  No matter a person’s race, religion, or creed, people point to what they think right.  Then, especially on Super Bowl Sunday they engage in all, that were someone else to do the same, they would say, that is wrong.  

Indeed, on the Monday through Saturday, before the final event the sanctity of sex, only after marriage, is subject to interpretation.  Voyeurism is at times defined as an involuntary response.  Adultery is but a betrayal advocated as merely a reason for divorce.  The deed doers surmise the divine, will understand.  Humans are flawed.  They are frail when faced with animal lust.  When stimulated, an uncontrollable desire for sex seethes from every pore.  Even the threat of a police sweep cannot assuage the palpable passion.

While people may profess puritanical principles, those our forefathers inscribed on parchment, today, as the Super Bowl looms large in our collective consciousness, the American public concludes, they cannot adhere to such strict ethical standards.  

Admittedly, these beliefs have shaped our laws and sustained a stable society.  Americans, we, the people, wish to maintain the moral codes.  People say they are proud and proper, except when they are not.  The pious and non-believers, each, trust that they practice as they preach, or at least on Sundays.  Super Bowl Sunday may the only day on which all bets are off, or on.

Some do not seek corporal satisfactions.  Instead, in anticipation of the game, citizens count the possible ways they might come by extra cash.  Some bet on which team will win, what songs might be sung, or whether the game will go into overtime.  Super Bowl gambling pools are as American as apple pie.  

The masses gamble on the fact that society will not judge them as they might judge others who do as they will do.  ESPN Writer, Jeff Merron, may have said it best as he mused, Sex goes to the Super Bowl.  Forthrightly, Mister Merron spoke of what few will.

Some people say the Super Bowl is all about money.  Others say it’s all about power.  For many, it’s all about advertising.  A few die-hards insist football’s the important thing.

But most of us know that it’s really (like everything else) about sex.  There are the parties leading up to the game.  The groupies.  The cheerleaders.  A few hot commercials during the broadcast.  Halftime quickies, for some big spenders in the corporate boxes.

We could go deeper (pardon the pun), into the realm of academic theory . . . Enough of that.  Let’s get to the Super Bowl sex lore.

In the beginning, ancestral wisdom was welcome.  Quotes from our forbearers, the colonist trusted, would not lead us astray.  Words of acumen avowed that then, we were a country united in faith.  The new world was young when, on June 21, 1776, John Adams, a future President, penned a letter to his cousin Zabdiel Adams.  In the epistle, he proclaimed, “[I]t is religion and morality alone which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand.  The only foundation of a free constitution is pure virtue.”  

Ample evidence establishes the essential value of religion in this nation.  Yet, as we aged, some would say we have forgotten our ways.  It is written, in the Daily Resource for Entrepreneurs, the canon that best describes America today.  Sex Sells More  [Now] Than Ever.

Yet, the Protestant ethic of earlier generations remains strong.  Many believe America is a Christian nation.  Others argue it is not.  That debate aside, perhaps the people in this country may acknowledge that the country is as its citizens are conflicted.  Residents of this great land are ready to act in ways they claim are repugnant.

Hence, while sex sells it does so behind the scenes.  Sales are hidden from view, just as the women who might stimulate a sexual thought are.  Super Bowl spectators in 2004 might recall the first time and what seems to be the last occasion, a female performer appeared on the field for halftime festivities.  

On that infamous day, a bit of bare breast was exposed broadly.  What was difficult to see from the bleachers, and only visible for but a second live, and in person, was the source of much sexual stimulation for those with an imagination.  Fines were slapped on broadcasters, later rescinded, and then, to ensure that all of America understood the seriousness of the situation, the case, in November 2008, was taken to the Supreme Court of the United States for “appropriate” review.  

While it may seem that the action, gyrating genitals, bouncing “t and a” are in or barred from the Bowl, what really rotates the pelvis is found on the streets of whatever city hosts the event.  This year, the exploits are held in Tampa Bay, Florida.

Throughout the week before the main event, people prepare for climatic celebrations.  Excitement is high, as are the prospects for an erection.  The Road to Super Bowl XLIII is flanked by 43 strip clubs.  In “The Big Guava,” as the city is sometimes called ,  there is Lip Stixx, Centerfolds and the Bliss Cabaret.  Down the street a visitors, or a resident can enter Diamond Dolls and Bare Assets.  The Wild Gentlemen’s Club is quite the haunt.  Indeed, there are 43 erotic dance emporiums in the Tampa metropolitan area.

(O)ne for each Super Bowl.  And the week of Super Bowl XLIII is to Tampa’s naughty nightlife what Black Friday is to America’s shopping malls.

All the exotic dancing joints have earned Tampa a bawdy reputation _ the lads’ magazine, Maxim, even put it on its top 10 list of best U.S. party cities a couple years ago, based mostly on the two score and more night spots to see naked or nearly naked women.

Bare bottom babes, oh my.  What might the forefathers think or say.  Surely, John Adams, often regarded as the most influential of the founding fathers, would offer his words of woe.  “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.  It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”  He may then adjoin “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with passions unbridled by morality and religion.”  Each might explain why the police force in Tampa Bay proposed as they did.  

Tampa Bay spokeswoman Andrea Davis said officers will not patrol the clubs.  Law enforcement will not look for dancers who get too close to patrons.  Ms Davis affirmed in 2001, when the city last hosted the games, no reports were filed.  She  then offered; officers are obliged to investigate if someone complains, few customers are likely to protest when a performer leans in and snuggles in those special ways.

Participants at The Adult Entertainment Expo, 2008, might best explain why in a nation so pious, the police will hear few if any objections to the pleasure found in the wondrous world of titillation.  What is hidden behind walls, is not thought to be a thorny issue.

(T)world’s largest sex industry trade show, attracts as many as 30,000 visitors and more than 400 registered exhibitors every year, including a growing number of small-business owners, organizers say.

“There’s an extremely supportive environment out there  . . .” says Suki Dunham, the 39-year-old co-owner of OhMiBod, a Greenland, N.H.-based vibrator company she and her husband launched in 2006.  Dunham, a former marketer at Apple, used [the 2008] event to unveil a new line of Naughtinanos, an iPhone-compatible device that vibrates in sync with a caller’s voice.


Officers will have their hands full with what is in full view, as could be expected in a country where citizens claim to honor a code of ethical standards and then gravitate to the will of their genitals.  Even still, Tampa Bay locals, and lawmakers, true Americans, tired of the city’s sleazy reputation wish to maintain a modicum of decorum.  

However, no matter how hard “The Big Guava” residents work to clean up the street, regardless of the reprimands, there seems to be no way to control the flow of dollars in the sex trade or the lack of sense that is all too rampant in this “ethical” nation.  The second President understood that the government was powerless.  He had hoped the people might self-regulate.  “Religion & virtue are the only foundations, not only of republicanism and of all free government, but of social felicity under all governments and in all the combinations of human society.”

President Adams asserted; “Statesmen, my dear sir, may plan and speculate for liberty, but it is religion and morality alone, which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand.”

Perchance that explains why in a nation as virtuous as the United States, the sex toy market, in the United States, which, “excludes the pornography industry, accounts for up to $2 billion in total adult industry sales every year.”

Toys, thankfully, are the treasures that allow for the appearance of civility  Americans do not worry of what remains hidden from view.  What hinders the image of a healthy righteous America, is what comes out from the clubs and onto the streets, the week the Super Bowl is in town.

Prostitution is the problem, or a commercial that promotes a vegetarian diet.  

Law officers have come to expect that they cannot control for human vices, even in a country so safe from sin and saintly as the United States is.  

In this country, we claim to be guided by G-d.  Devout citizens describe the homeland as Fisher Ames, of the Federalist Party did in an oration on the Sublime Virtues of General George Washington.  In 1800, the political leader stated, “Our liberty depends on our education, our laws, and habits . . . it is founded on morals and religion, whose authority reigns in the heart, and on the influence all these produce on public opinion before that opinion governs rulers.”

Perhaps, that is the paradigm.  In the United States, morals and religion do not reign on the heart; however, these do produce public opinion.  Until the opinion that governs the spirit is identical the one that governs rulers, Super Bowl Sunday will be as Mondays through Saturdays are normally, seconds, minutes, hours, day, months, and years of American hypocrisy.

References, religion, and realities . . .

Farewell To Privacy. Hello To Arms


copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

The Courts and Congress have come to believe there is reason for fear.  Enemies are everywhere.  Those who wish to do us harm are in our homes.  They talk to us on our telephones.  Some sashay in through our computers.  “Evil doers” are ubiquitous in the United States.  Our open society places the public at risk.  We, the people, must defend ourselves.  Thus, the Supreme Court and Congress have given the government and us the means.  The highest judicial body in the nation has made it possible for the common man to protect himself with a pistol; Legislators provided the President ethereal firearms.  Indeed, individuals and the Commander-In-Chief were bequeathed more than either had asked for.  In 2008, we have entered the Summer of Separation.  In the United States we say, “Farewell to privacy.  Hello to arms.”

Absorbed in fear, Americans have detached themselves from the original intent of the United States Constitution.  We the people have embraced weaponry and rejected our right to privacy.  The populace, with assistance from Congress willingly chose to forfeit the Fourth Amendment.  authentic freedoms were  disemboweled.  If the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act  (FISA) stands, and there is no reason to think a Bill signed into law by the President of the United States and each House of Congress would not be fully implemented, the press and the people will no longer have unfettered access to information.  Nor can they disseminate data without intense scrutiny.  Chris Hedges, a twenty year veteran Foreign Correspondent for The New York Times, speaks to a truth that he lived and now fears will die.

The new FISA Amendments Act nearly eviscerates oversight of government surveillance.  It allows the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to review only general procedures for spying rather than individual warrants.  The court will not be told specifics about who will be wiretapped, which means the law provides woefully inadequate safeguards to protect innocent people whose communications are caught up in the government’s dragnet surveillance program.

The law, passed under the guise of national security, ostensibly targets people outside the country.  There is no question, however, that it will ensnare many communications between Americans and those overseas.  Those communications can be stored indefinitely and disseminated, not just to the U.S. government but to other governments.

This law will cripple the work of those of us who as reporters communicate regularly with people overseas, especially those in the Middle East.  It will intimidate dissidents, human rights activists, and courageous officials who seek to expose the lies of our government or governments allied with ours.  It will hang like the sword of Damocles over all who dare to defy the official versions of events.  It leaves open the possibility of retribution and invites the potential for abuse by those whose concern is not with national security but with the consolidation of their own power.

Trepidation has long been a tool for intimidation.  A frightened fellow or female will happily adopt a policy or a pistol to relieve apprehension.  Perhaps, that it why after the events of September 11, 2001, Americans, panicked and the power elite prospered.  As the Twin Towers fell, the people cried out for protection.  Congress gleefully approved the Patriot Act; and as a nation, we pursued a course of action that was and is contrary to Constitutional principles.  Even early on, Americans said,  “Farewell to privacy.  Hello to arms.”

As the war thundered on, the public worked to avoid greater anxiety.  People purchased more guns for personal safety sake.  They feared the government might not be able to shield them from all potential harms.  Indeed, this attitude has been ubiquitous in American history.  The Wild West outlook often overrides logic or Constitutional law.  In America, there have been many Summers of Separation.

When humans think weaponry is the solution, as they do in a country where there are ninety guns per every one hundred U.S. residents, they will grab a pistol when faced with any problem.  The availability of petroleum has become a paradox.  Prices for fuel and food are high.  The cost for shelter is higher.  Homes are in foreclosure.  Job security is but a myth.  Employer provided benefits are elusive.  The cost for Health Care coverage is out of reach; yet, the gun that could end it all is close.

Immigration is also an issue that irks many in America.  When migrants flee to the States in search of financial freedom, the native-born feel further threatened.  The divide between the races causes much resentment.  Income inequity offers reason for rage.  Economic slavery causes tempers to rise.  In 2008, the effect of all these predicaments troubles the populace.   The American public is aggravated.  Currently, people feel less safe, less strong, and more scared.  Millions ponder.  Force can seem the great equalizer.  Hence, gun ownership is great.  The Small Arms Survey, released in August 2007 reveals Americans have a ready arsenal.

With fewer than five per cent of the world’s population, the United States is home to roughly 35-50 per cent of the world’s civilian-owned guns.

The report went on to state that the common folk are better equipped with weaponry than law enforcement or the military might be.  Civilians who reside in cities, suburbs, and those who dwell in the countryside possess the vast majority of total firearms owned in the United States.  Citizens in a country built on might will use firepower to retain what they believe is their right. If they are refused the privilege to pack heat, Americans will seek recourse by any means.

Special-forces policeman Heller, a resident of Washington District of Columbia certainly did.  The lawman, aware that anyone on the street might be armed sought solace in a piece of hardware.  Mister Heller applied to register a handgun he wished to keep at home; the District denied his request since, at the time, the District of Columbia forbade civilian handgun ownership.  Disgruntled, and prepared for battle, as Americans often are, Officer Heller filed a legal suit.  He stated his Second Amendment Rights were violated.  The Supreme Court agreed.

A review of the actual Second Amendment which states Americans have the Right to “bear arms in times when a well-regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free State,” or research might have led the Justices to decide otherwise.  Nonetheless, in a summer steeped with separation from acumen, the Supreme Court ruled civilian gun ownership is a right.

The Administration, policymakers, and pundits think the decision wise.  After all, it is a dangerous world.  Americans need to be prepared to fight the ominous foe  Fifteen years ago,   near half of American households understood this.  People built arsenals.  Thirty-one percent of adult Americans owned a firearm in 1993.  Still, that armory was not enough to protect the citizenry from attack.  Years later, the munitions stored,  while likely larger, were no better protection.

Crimes occurred outside the home, on the streets of any given community and , just as predicted, some transgressions traumatized those within four walls. Few Americans ponder the weightier aspects of artillery in the American home.

Earlier this year (1997), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a mind-boggling report showing that the U.S. firearm-related homicide rate for children was 16 times higher than the combined rate for children in 25 other industrialized countries.  Meanwhile, the U.S. child rate of firearm related suicide was 11 times higher. . .

Last year, Congress nearly slashed the budget for the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC), which collects and monitors firearm injury data and funds related research as part of its mission.  As a result of new funding mandates, CDC this year has been forced to dramatically reduce its firearm-related injury research, and CDC-funded gunshot injury surveillance programs will come to an end in several states.

All this comes at a time when gunshot injuries are expected to soon outstrip automobile accidents as the number one cause of injury death in the U.S., costing an estimated $20 billion yearly in medical costs and lost productivity.  Surprisingly little medical research monitors the kinds of firearm injuries that occur or the types of guns used.  While the CDC samples unshot injury data from 91 hospitals around the country, there is no comprehensive national surveillance system to accurately track how many people are wounded by guns each year..

Surveillance is the sham used to explain what Federal officials think a greater priority.  Those who have more power than a weapon might wield understand the statistics on civilian gun wounds would not please or appease Americans.  Information on gun injury might shift the fear factor.  If the people are to remain focused on foreign forces, then FISA, the Bill that keeps on giving to the politically powerful, will remain safe, and after all, is that not the truer issue.  As foreign correspondent Christopher Hedges reminds us . . .

It (the law) is about using terrorism (at home or abroad) as a pretext to permit wholesale spying and to silence voices that will allow us to maintain an open society.

Thankfully, when prized pistols are in question, it is easy to silence voices of dissent.  Physicians were not asked to speak before the Supreme Court shot down a ban on gun sales.  Had they had the opportunity Americans and the Justices might have heard  . . .

Doctors worried by Supreme Court gun ruling

By Maggie Fox


Wed Jul 9, 2008 7:44pm EDT

Washington (Reuters) – Last month’s Supreme Court ruling striking down a strict gun control law in the U.S. capital will lead to more deaths and accidental injuries, the editors of the New England Journal of Medicine said on Wednesday.

They joined a growing clamor from medical doctors, especially emergency room physicians, who fear a surge of accidental deaths, murders, and suicides if handguns become more easily available than they already are.

The ruling struck down a law in Washington that forbade personal ownership of handguns.  The court made explicit, for the first time, that Americans had rights as individuals to own guns.

It won praise from President George W. Bush, Republican presidential candidate John McCain and guns rights advocates (and the presumptive Democratic nominee, Barack Obama)

Justice Antonin Scalia, who voted with the 5-4 majority on the decision, said citizens may prefer handguns for home defense because they “can be pointed at a burglar with one hand while the other hand dials the police.”

Perchance, Justice Scalia would be comforted to know, that with thanks to his cohorts  in the Legislative Branch, when a city dweller or a rural resident telephones for assistance, he or she can be comforted by the thought the authorities are very close by.  Indeed, public officials may be plugged into the individual’s phone, and computer.  In the Summer of Separation, as powerbrokers in one part of Washington said , “Hello To Arms,” those on the other side of the Hill proclaimed, “Farewell To Privacy.”

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act established thirty years ago was all but rescinded.  The court system created to help public officials in a crisis is no longer needed to swiftly serve warrants when an investigation is requested.  The Constitution has been compromised.

Lawmakers are already justifying their votes for making major changes to that proven regime by saying that the bill is a reasonable compromise that updates FISA technologically and will make it somewhat harder to spy on Americans abroad. But none of that mitigates the bill’s much larger damage. It would make it much easier to spy on Americans at home, reduce the courts’ powers, and grant immunity to the companies that turned over Americans’ private communications without a warrant.

It would allow the government to bypass the FISA court and collect large amounts of Americans’ communications without a warrant simply by declaring that it is doing so for reasons of national security. It cuts the vital “foreign power” provision from FISA, never mentions counterterrorism and defines national security so broadly that experts think the term could mean almost anything a president wants it to mean.

The President is abundantly pleased.  The present Commander-In-Chief is now assured ultimate power.  Future potential Chief Executives, one of whom voted to support this conciliatory commitment to telecommunication companies, will forever retain the “right” to be spy on the citizenry.   In the Summer of Separation, cognitive and Constitutional dissonance is secure.  Congress and the courts assured us of this.

Congress cast aside the Fourth Amendment,  The Supreme Court rescinded the essence of the Second Amendment.  Our countrymen are now be free to carry a gun, and chat on an open line with the trigger cocked.  Former President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt  told us “Only Thing We Have to Fear Is Fear Itself.”  Perhaps, the prominent predecessor could not have predicted a day when citizens would be convinced to embrace fretfulness, to forego freedom, and to sing, “Farewell to privacy.  Hello to Arms.”

References and Rights . . .

An Evolving Opinion on Gun Rights; “Second Amendment Second Thoughts”

To view the original art, please travel to “Second Amendment Second Thoughts”

copyright © 2008.  Andrew Wahl.  Off The Wahl Perspective.

I’ve never been a big backer of gun rights, especially when it comes to handguns. I don’t like them personally, and, in the America I grew up in, didn’t see the need for the average citizen to have them. Still, I’ve known lots of people who enjoy hunting, or who get the same warm fuzzy going to a gun show that I get at a comic-book convention. To each there own, I thought.

But my views have started to evolve during the Bush reign, and I found myself having a different reaction to last week’s Supreme Court decision than I think I would have seven years ago. As this week’s toon makes clear, I’m having “Second Amendment Second Thoughts” [Archive No. 0825].

How about you?

Till next week,


With A Friend Like Him

copyright © 2008 Forgiven. The Disputed Truth

As if things in America were not hard enough for blacks, what with Barack Obama having to explain and denounce his relationship with his “angry” black pastor to ease the fears of his white supporters. It is amazing to me how we allow and accept comments from whites without so much as a whimper, but let a black man say them and all hell breaks loose. It is this double standard and hypocrisy that created the “invisible” Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. I call him invisible because unfortunately for him he is too black to be white and too white to be black. He is lost in a false reality that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. He is a black man that hates black people, what a terrible place that must be.

Justice Thurgood Marshall was the first black man appointed to serve on the Supreme Court. Justice Marshall had a distinguished career as a civil rights attorney many times arguing before the Court he would someday join. He brought an appreciation and an understanding of the plight of the black man in the American criminal and social justice systems. He understood that the laws of this land had been skewed in favor of white men and against women and minorities. This was the Justice that Clarence Thomas was nominated to replace. Many wanted and expected the nominee to replace Justice Marshall to bring a similar sensitivity to the Court.

Justice Thomas was not that person. I can accept that he wants to believe that he lives in a color blind society and that racial prejudice is ancient history. I can accept that he wants to interpret the laws written by imperfect and bias people as if they weren’t. I can even accept the fact that he doesn’t believe that after centuries of prejudice and bias that blacks do not need help in leveling the playing field. I can never understand it, but I can accept it. What I cannot accept is when a black man who doesn’t want to help other blacks does want to intentionally harm other blacks. I can not accept it from the dope dealers that prowl our neighborhoods selling poison to the their brothers and sisters. I can not accept it from the gang bangers who have replaced the Klan as the biggest threat to other black men. I can not accept it from a member of our highest Court concealing it as equal protection under the law.

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court on Wednesday overturned the conviction and death sentence of a Louisiana man who killed his estranged wife in a jealous rage, finding that the trial judge “committed clear error” in excluding black jurors.

By 7 to 2, the court ruled in favor of Allen Snyder, whose case came before the justices for the second time last December, two years after they had sent it back to the Louisiana Supreme Court and told that tribunal to consider whether the jury selection had been tainted by racial bias. NY Times

In the case that the Court overturned the prosecutor had dismissed all the potential black jurors from the jury pool for ridiculous reasons, reasons that were not used to excuse the white jurors. There were two Justices that voted against the majority opinion. Mind you, this is a case involving a black man being tried by an all-white jury and the sole black Justice on the Court did not see a problem with this scenario. Once again Justice Thomas displays why he is despised by many of his fellow black Americans. You are telling me that 7 whites including the Chief Justice who is by no means friendly to black causes finds fault with this case, but Justice Thomas can’t see a problem.

Ok Justice Thomas, you have proven that you don’t want to help your fellow black citizens or represent their causes, but why would you want to harm those same people and causes? As much as I despise the dope dealers and gang bangers, I despise Clarence Thomas more because due to his position on the Court he has the capabilities to do more harm to blacks than either of those two combined. He makes decisions that can affect all black people by a single vote. This is too much power to give any man that suffers from the degree of self-hate that he suffers from. Doctors have to take an oath that they will do no harm, I wish Justice Thomas had taken such an oath.

Why do we appoint women and blacks to the Supreme Court? Many will argue it is because they represent the best jurisprudence irrespective of race or gender. In a perfect world this would probably be true, however as many have tried to point out we do not live in that perfect world. We live in a country that for centuries believed that women and blacks were inherently inferior. We designed laws, public and social policies to enforce those beliefs. As a nation it took us 200 years to place the first black and woman on the Supreme Court. Why do we have diversity in our criminal justice system if justice is blind? Because our history and current experience has shown us that justice is not blind, that because of our racial and gender biases justice has been meted out unfairly. How many murderers of blacks were freed by all white juries? How many murderers of women were freed by all male juries?

We have diversity in our criminal justice system to ensure that everyone gets equal treatment under the law. We believe that by having blacks and women serving as jurors, lawyers, prosecutors, and judges that we open the system up to prevent past injustices from continuing. We also believe that they will bring their unique experiences to these positions to help temper justice with mercy. The whole purpose of being judged by ones peers is to bring this understanding of being in the other person’s shoes into the system. So we now know that it is inherently unfair to have a jury of all whites, or all men, or all blacks to judge anyone. Our court system is based on the belief of fairness and impartiality. Justice Thomas should be a better student of history than he is a student of ideology maybe then he would be more sympathetic to the plight of his brothers and sisters. With a friend like him on the Court, we certainly don’t need any enemies.

There are many more wrong answers than right ones, and they are easier to find – Michael Friedlander

Black History; The Past is Present

Joseph McNeil (from left), Franklin in McCain, Billy Smith and Clarence Henderson sit in protest at the whites-only lunch counter at Woolworth during the second day of peaceful protest,

February 2, 1960.Corbis

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

French Novelist, Alphonse Karr offered, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”  ‘Tis too true.  Beginning in the month of February 1976, Americans were given an opportunity to realize how profound the axiom is.  For four short winter weeks, citizens of this country contemplate what was.  We, as a nation honor Black History.  For a moment, countrymen set aside the preeminent prejudices that govern many practices and policies.  As a nation, we ponder how much African-Americans have contributed to this country.  

Tales are told; triumphs recounted.  Perhaps one of most significant heartfelt stories shared was aired on February 1, 2008.  All Things Considered producers gave the listeners much to contemplate.  Newscaster, Michele Norris introduced an unassuming activist whose personal anecdote brought tears to the eyes of many in the National Public Radio audience.  The Woolworth Sit-In That Launched a Movement, as narrated by one of the Greensboro Four, Franklin McCain reminds us of how often the past is found in the present.

Franklin in McCain remembered aloud the day he and his fellow classmates entered a Greensboro, North Carolina, Woolworth Five and Dime Store with intent.  The four students, each from the all-black North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College walked into the Drug Store determined to order a meal and dine at the “whites only” lunch counter.

In 1960, such an act was unthinkable.  Black Americans knew their place, and it was not near pinkish people.  To consider being physically close, or to question the authority of the Anglos in power, was cause for a near certain death sentence.  Nonetheless, after centuries of oppression, the descendants of slaves felt it was time to assert them selves, to peacefully stand strong in support of equal and civil rights.  

The young men strode into the store, made a few purchases, and then moved toward the stools at the luncheonette.  Each understood that this act was not allowed.  Local laws, regulation imposed by retailers, or societal standards prohibited such an action.

McCain remembers the anxiety he felt when he went to the store that Monday afternoon, the plan he and his friends had devised to launch their protest and how he felt when he sat down on that stool.

“Fifteen seconds after … I had the most wonderful feeling.  I had a feeling of liberation, restored manhood.  I had a natural high.  And I truly felt almost invincible.  Mind you, [I was] just sitting on a dumb stool and not having asked for service yet,” McCain says.

“It’s a feeling that I don’t think that I’ll ever be able to have again.  It’s the kind of thing that people pray for . . .  and wish for all their lives and never experience it.  And I felt as though I wouldn’t have been cheated out of life had that been the end of my life at that second or that moment.”

The waitress behind the counter refused to serve the four gentle men any food.  The young chaps informed the woman that they had been waited on only moments earlier.  The fellows, Franklin McCain, Joseph McNeil, Billy Smith, and Clarence Henderson had procured wares in the store before they took seats at the food bar.  The students questioned why could they buy goods, and yet not pay for, and then eat the fodder available for sale in the store restaurant.  Befuddled, the server called her supervisor.

The retail manager approached the students and told them to leave.  He said the young men could have a meal at the stand-up counter in the basement, but not in the more visible “For Whites Only” luncheon area.  The Executive proclaimed corporate headquarters mandated the policy.  [Later, the four scholars would learn this was not true.]

After a five-minute dialogue, the manager threw his hands up in dismay and walked back into the kitchen.  Moments passed and a police entered the store.  The law-officer paced back and forth, near the four young men.  He glared and stared at the fellows. None of the college men were combative.  They remained calm.  Then, the policeman pulled out his nightstick.  The law-enforcer slapped the stick in the palm of his hand repeatedly.

The then academic realized the lawman did not know what to do. McCain recalls the zeal he felt.  The deputy did not sense what he could or could not do.  The bureaucrat was befuddled.  The four college men were not disturbing the peace; indeed, the gents were tranquil and composed.

A older white woman watched the entire incident.  In a southern town such as Greensboro, North Carolina, circa 1960, one could assume the thoughts of a little old lady were not good.  The female, probably a product of the segregated South stared at the lads throughout the affair.  Franklin McCain imagined she was suspicious and distrustful of the four young men.  His thought was the lady was scornful.  He imagined, were she to speak, she would say, “Shame on you” to the Black “boys” at the counter.

Eventually, she finished her doughnut and coffee. And she walked behind McNeil and McCain – and put her hands on their shoulders.

“She said in a very calm voice, ‘Boys, I am so proud of you. I only regret that you didn’t do this 10 years ago.'” McCain recalls.

“What I learned from that little incident was … don’t you ever, ever stereotype anybody in this life until you at least experience them and have the opportunity to talk to them. I’m even more cognizant of that today – situations like that – and I’m always open to people who speak differently, who look differently, and who come from different places,” he says.

Two score and eight years later, many people believe they are as Franklin McCain now is, free from stereotypes.  Throughout this territory, citizens of the United States claim to be colorblind.  The accepted conviction is, that in America, life has changed.  White Americans like to think racism is a obsession long past.  Historians turn to accounts such as the tale of the Greensboro four and state, the civil rights movement was a success.

Journalist Michele Norris expressed as many would, “If you stop somewhere today for a cup of coffee and maybe a tuna sandwich, you probably saw other people at that establishment of a different race. Today, ‘No big deal;’ Back in 1960, in the America south, that scene would have been a very big deal.”  In conclusion, the broadcaster stated . . .

On that first day, Feb. 1, the four men stayed at the lunch counter until closing. The next day, they came back with 15 other students. By the third day, 300 joined in; later, 1,000.

The sit-ins spread to lunch counters across the country — and changed history.

However, life for an African-American in 2008 is still riddled with racism.  The difference is the design is more subtle.  We remember Rosa Parks, the woman who stood up for freedom.  This African-American woman was tired of giving up her seat and her rights to racist whites who believed they were better than she.  When asked to stand or move to the back of a bus, Rosa Parks refused.  In a trolley filled with whites, many witnessed what would not occur today.

Blacks need not forfeit their place on the bus bench to an Anglo.  Perchance, in part, because few whites use public transportation. Anglo Americans own automobiles.  

African-American and Latino households are much less likely than white families to own a car, leaving us with those indelible images of people of color crying out from the rooftops [in 2005, during Hurricane Katrina.]

A great deal of attention in the last two decades has been focused on the “digital divide,” the concern that unequal access to new forms of technology such as the Internet are leaving people behind based on their class and race. But Hurricane Katrina exposed the “internal combustion engine” divide, the alarming disparity in car ownership that literally was the difference between life and death for many Gulf Coast residents.

A recent report on racial disparities in car ownership reveals that one in four Black households (24 percent) and one in six Latino households (17 percent) does not own a car.  This is compared to one in fourteen white households (7 percent) who are car-less. In the eleven coastal counties with the highest incidence and future risk of hurricanes, people without cars are disproportionately people of color.  These include counties in Houston, Providence, New Orleans, Tampa, New York City, and Miami.  In Orleans Parish New Orleans, for example, over 35 percent of African-Americans, 26 percent of Native Americans, and 27 percent of Latinos don’t own a car, compared to 15 percent of whites.

Persons with pale complexions are not restricted in their travel; nor are they denied entry to a place of business.  Black individuals are.  Light skinned persons are not relegated to the wrong side of the railroad tracks.  White persons do not worry when they wish to move into a neighborhood.  Sundown Towns do exclude Anglos.  A Caucasian can take residence wherever he or she chooses, with few exceptions.  Only poor credit might lessen the opportunities afforded to a white man or woman.  Early in the Twentieth Century, segregation was blatant.

Whites simply passed ordinances forbidding black people from buying or renting homes and, in some cases, even appearing on the street after sundown. To advertise their actions, the towns sometimes posted sundown signs on the highway or in the railroad station.

“There was a contagion of ordinances,” says Loewen. “Many small towns expelled the black population or decreed a policy of not allowing any blacks.” . . .

In 1968, Congress passed the Fair Housing Act, banning discrimination in housing, and the Supreme Court ruled in Jones v. Mayer that housing discrimination was unconstitutional. Since then, Loewen says, “sundown towns have been in retreat.”

But, he’s quick to add, “there are still hundreds of towns where blacks would risk their mental well-being as well as their physical well-being by living in them.”

Certainly, Caucasian Americans would like to believe this is not true. Countless offer evidence.  People point to the  Civil Rights Act 1964. White Americans, embarrassed by their history tried to make amends.  An aspect of compensation and atonement was the popular practice of colorblindness.  People who profess not see the color of a persons’ flesh act as though they have great insight.  The bigoted belch, ‘We do not discriminate.’  Then, the tolerant insulate themselves.  

Prejudiced persons isolate those whose skin is a shade thought less desirable.  Ghettos are hidden from view.  Highway walls seal “us” off from the slums. Americans acknowledge the city streets are not safe.  Thankfully, the suburbs are.  At times, one of “them” slips through the cracks.  Barriers are broken.  These fissures are filled with letters and threats of lynching.

Bridget Ward, whose recent move to a White neighborhood in Philadelphia was greeted with insults painted on her front door, told reporters outside her home in Bridesburg, “I am going to move. Y’all got your neighborhood. You can have it.”

The 32-year-old single mother said she will abandon her rented row house in the working-class neighborhood in northeast Philadelphia as soon as she can.

“The letter is a very serious thing,” said Kevin Vaughan, executive director of the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations. “Bridget has two small kids–very, very good kids–and their safety weighed heavily on her mind.”

The letter said Ms. Ward’s daughters, Jasmine, 3, and Jamilla, 9, would die if the family stayed in the home, according to police. Agent Bob Norton said the FBI had entered the case.

The author of the death threat also boasted of having used a homemade bomb to drive a Black woman out of another White neighborhood.

Neither police nor Vaughan would quote directly from the letter except to say it referred to a group called “the posse.”

This mob of maligners is not unique.  In truth, racism has simply gone underground.  African-Americans are not run out on the rail, as they once were.  Anglo Americans have become more refined.  In 1982, in America the practice of intentional exclusion was ruled legal. Private clubs restrict persons of color and do not limit membership for those whose skin is light.

More recently, in November 2006,  a Whites Only Scholarship, was offered to students.  The Endowment created outrage; nonetheless, the policy and practice are still thought reasonable enough to initiate.

Lest we forget the most recent Supreme slight.  Jurists in the highest Court of the land ruled that schools in the “United” States can re-segregate.  In Parents Involved In Community Schools v. Seattle School District Number 1 Et. Al. . . .

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the plurality opinion that “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”

In essence, the Judiciary Branch of our government concluded, racial balance cannot be achieved by artificial means.  If citizens intentionally integrate then color will remain an issue.  Hence, by law it is decreed, the people in this nation must be colorblind and colormute.  Citizens can only hope that naturally mankind will decide to mix and mingle voluntarily, although rarely have they or will they as long as racism remains intact.

For African-Americans equality, while granted by the Constitution, is but a dream.  Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Junior spoke of the shared hope in a speech delivered 28 August 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington District of Columbia.  While a large crowd listened to the eloquent speaker and cheered, millions more were not moved or changed.

Appearances may have been altered; however essentially, racism is alive and well in white America.  For the most part, a pinkish person is honored unless or until that Caucasian gives someone reason to react to his or her presence. If a white man commits murder or a Anglo woman neglects her children, people may gossip or scorn that individual.  Certainly, as a group, Caucasians will not be defined by the indiscretion of one individual.

In the United States teachers, bank tellers, taxi cab drivers, retailers, and even the most reasonable among us, may look at a Black person, a dark-skinned individual and assume the person is lazy, less than brilliant, lacking in awareness, lower in social status than any other person might be.  Sadly, in the United States, some supposed scholars present pseudo science as reason to support such ghastly and inaccurate stereotypes.

Sadly, or happily, few Americans experience as Franklin McCain did in the dawn of the Civil Rights movement.  Perhaps, if we each worked against the status quo, sat, or stood for equality, a little old lady, a sage of sorts, would approach us.  With her hands resting gently on our shoulders, this wise woman would say, in the most unexpected manner, “I am so proud of you. I only regret that you didn’t do this 10 years ago.'”

Americans, we can wait no longer.  Rather than recount the history of Blacks in America, let us all make history.  May we finally begin to act on principles, embrace our brethren each and every day.  Holidays do not heal a heart.  Hurts do not fade with pomp and circumstance.  Change does not come when we deem ourselves different.  If we, as a country are to truly revere our brothers and sisters, be they black, brown, yellow, or pink, we must not rely on words.  Deeds tell the tale that Franklin McCain recalls.

Resources for Racism . . .

Citizens Vote; Democracy In Question

copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert

In this a Presidential election year, citizens of this country are intensely aware, every vote counts.  The world witnessed, in State after State people scrambled to the polls.  Voters of every age have turned out in large numbers.  The sprint to the White House is on.  Most every electorate wants to join in.  the people wish to return to power.  Much is at stake.  The people want to participate in the process.

In America, in a democracy, government is defined as organization that operates of, by, and for the people.  The people choose who will represent them in the Executive and Legislatives Branches.  Executives appoint persons to occupy Judicial seats.  Supreme Court Jurists may serve the public for a lifetime.  Legislators also have infinite influence.  Members of Congress make laws and approve nominees.  Thus, those who speak and stand in for the common folk have much power.

Hence, it is essential, before the average Joe or Joanne casts a ballot they must be very well informed.  When the American people vote they place their lives in the hands of a few.  Access to the candidates is vital if people are to make an informed decision.  During a Presidential election year, it is imperative that the people, one and all, be given an opportunity to meet and greet the hopefuls.  A President of the United States is the single most important being on the globe.  He or she is superior to all other officials who reside in this region.  Since the United States is considered the world’s only true Super Power, the President of this nation is virtually omnipotent, or at least some often act as though they are.

It is for this reason the electorate must choose wisely.  Each adult needs to ponder, who is the person who will best represent my interest?  Which Presidential hopeful will serve persons in every community equally?  Who will work for the common good of the people and not for personal fame and fortune?  There is much to research.  Reflection needs to be deep and thoughtful.  The public must ensure that a Presidential aspirant knows of and wishes to honor the desires of his or her constituents.  However, this determination is difficult to make.

Most of the citizens in this country only see the hopefuls in well-crafted, scripted moments.  Television and the Internet dominate the delivery of news about the candidates.  Pew Research Center for the People and the Press reported.

The internet is living up to its potential as a major source for news about the presidential campaign.  Nearly a quarter of Americans (24%) say they regularly learn something about the campaign from the internet, almost double the percentage from a comparable point in the 2004 campaign (13%). ?

Moreover, the internet has now become a leading source of campaign news for young people and the role of social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook is a notable part of the story.  Fully 42% of those ages 18 to 29 say they regularly learn about the campaign from the internet, the highest percentage for any news source.  In January 2004, just 20% of young people said they routinely got campaign news from the internet.

[T]he proportion of Americans who rely on traditional news sources for information about the campaign has remained static or declined slightly since the last presidential campaign.  . . .

By contrast, the proportion of Americans who say they regularly learn about the campaign from the internet has more than doubled since 2000 – from 9% to 24%.

While it may seem that mainstream media has less of an influence of the electorate; indeed, the reverse may be true.  When we assess the sources of information accessed on the Internet we realize, corporate control still speaks volumes.

People who rely on the internet for campaign news turn to a wide array of websites.  The most frequently mentioned online news outlets are MSNBC (at 26%), CNN (23%) and Yahoo News (22%).

Few constituents know more than the media allows.  What the press makes available is extremely limited.  Independent-minded persons believe they know more.  Yet, these persons are also influenced.  Chant as the indies might, the media is hostile to anti-establishment candidates, John Edwards, Ron Paul, and Mike Huckabee, the three barely-acceptable do appear on stage.  Corporate controlled columnists recognize it is important to appear unbiased.

Americans must wonder of those whose exposure is eliminated.  Perchance, constituents might consider the plight of Democratic candidate Dennis Kucinich.  Presidential aspirant Kucinich was excluded from the American Association for Retired Persons [AARP] debate in the Hawkeye State.  In Granite country, ABC News declared Dennis Kucinich would be barred from the dialogue.  Silver State voters were not able to see the profound Presidential hopeful on stage.  He was relegated to the streets allowed to speak only to the neon lights.  The Palmetto State decreed, “Dennis, this is not your kingdom.”  Indeed, you are locked out in this land of liberty.  Texas told its tall tale.  Dennis Kucinich would not be the hero in the Lone Star State.  Ultimately, the only Presidential hopeful who is a member of a Union, endorsed an authentic Universal Health Care program, a Single Payer, Not For Profit plan was forced to withdraw his name from the ballot.  Perhaps the lack of press coverage played a role.

While Congressman and Presidential hopeful Dennis Kucinich was ahead in many Progressive surveys, among the general public the candidate remained an unknown.  In August 2007, the aspirant was heard to say “Polls are a function of name recognition, not a function of whether people support your ideas.  As people become aware of my candidacy, the evidence of that support is going to rise.”  Yet, sheltered from view few voters ever knew who Dennis Kucinich was or is.  Fewer still know when or where they could cast a ballot.

Confused Florida voters try to cast ballots in Super Tuesday primaries

The problem?  Florida had its presidential primary Last week.

Robert Perez

Orlando Sentinel

February 5, 2008

Millions of Americans in 24 states are turning out vote to in Super Tuesday presidential primaries from Georgia to Alaska today.  Meanwhile, some dedicated if confused Florida voters are trying to, as well.??

Elections offices across the state are reporting hundreds of calls from voters wanting to know where they can vote today.  The answer is that Florida already had its presidential primary — last week.??

“We’ve had over 100 calls at least over the last two days,” said Kathy Adams, a spokesperson for the Palm Beach County Election Supervisor.??

Closer to home, Orange County elections officials say they are dealing with a combination of confused voters from Florida and California.??

“One of my staffers has figured it out,” said Orange County Election Supervisor Bill Cowles.  “They are California voters going online and looking for the Orange County [California] election office and calling us instead.”

Of course that doesn’t explain the man who showed up at a polling site this morning in Orlando wanting to vote, Cowles conceded.?

Nor does this story enlighten the electorate as to why, in this the Information Age, so little is known, or shared with expectant voters.  If people do not know to ask, instructions are not given.  Votes, as important as they are, in 2008, are not counted.  In this the Twenty-First Century, not only is Florida a foible, California has come to encapsulate election fraud, folly, or failures.

Bubble, Bubble, Toil and Trouble.

By Steven Mikulan

LA Weekly

February 5, 2008 3:22 PM

Election cross-over dreams become a nightmare

Last Friday members of the nonpartisan election group,, were surfing the Web when they discovered a blog posting noting that Los Angeles County voters faced what organization spokesman Rick Jacobs calls “bubble trouble.”  In order for any of the county’s 776,000 voters who have registered Nonpartisan to vote in the open primaries for the Democratic or American Independent parties, they would have to mark an extra bubble on the ballot naming the party for which they wished to cast a cross-over ballot.  After a weekend of research, Jacobs says, contacted the office of L.A.’s Registrar of Voters on Sunday and were told it was true — an extra bubble had to be inked, and, yes, it could prove to be a big headache on election day.  The bottom line: If the “declaration” bubble is not inked on a Nonpartisan ballot, the voter’s presidential preference would be voided, though not the part pertaining to propositions.

By noon election day,’s worst fears were realized as voters began complaining that poll workers hadn’t pointed out the extra bubble.  The registrar’s office has tried to get word out to its workers about the issue but at this point, it’s impossible to know how many votes have been lost.  One thing is certain, however: It will be impossible to conduct a recount of the cross-over ballots because voters were handed both Nonpartisan and Democratic ballots and there are cases where the bubble numbers for candidates from different parties overlap.

Common characteristics, the overlap, be it in bubbles, ballots, or the barrage of disinformation is unavoidable.  The public peruses multiple sources, seeks infinite references; nonetheless, little of what the people know is untainted or from an independent and genuinely reliable source.  In this global village, we are all connected, interconnected, on the Internet, near the television, or scanning the periodicals.  Each is owned by one of the six, General Electric, Time Warner, Walt Disney, News Corp, CBS, or Viacom, all of whom are friendly with the others.  Internet users say this matters not to them.  However, in truth it does.

Well, you might comfort yourself by thinking about cyberspace.  Think again.  The dominant Internet service provider, America Online, is combining with already-number-one Time Warner- and the new firm AOL Time Warner would have more to lose than any other corporation if a movement grew to demand antitrust action against media conglomerates.

Amid rampant overall commercialization of the most heavily trafficked websites, AOL steers its 22 million subscribers in many directions-and, in the future, Time Warner’s offerings will be most frequently highlighted.  While seeming to be gateways to a vast cybergalaxy, AOL’s favorite links will remain overwhelmingly corporate friendly within a virtual cul-de-sac.

Hype about the new media seems boundless, while insatiable old hungers for maximum profits fill countless screens.  Centralization is the order of the media day.  As Bagdikian points out: “The power and influence of the dominant companies are understated by counting them as ‘six.’  They are intertwined: they own stock in each other, they cooperate in joint media ventures, and among themselves they divide profits from some of the most widely viewed programs on television, cable and movies.”

So, Americans please take no comfort.  Do not think you made an informed, independent choice. All that you read, all that you heard, what you viewed was influenced. The decision was made before you knew you could have had a choice.  This, the United States, is not a democratic system.

Cast A Vote, Give Voice To Your Needs.  Pray for a Democracy . . .

Historic Reversals, Accelerating Resegregation In City And Suburbs

copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

The mantra may be “teach tolerance.”  Yet, we teach our children intolerance.  In America, we see Historic Reversals, [and] Accelerating Resegregation, so says a report released in August 2007.  This study, conducted by Gary Orfield and Chungmei Lee, of the Civil Rights Project, University of California, Los Angeles documents what is evident throughout the country; racism is alive and well in America.  Indeed, racial discrimination grows stronger each and every day.  The most recent Supreme Court decision, handed down in June 2007, endorsed further racial divides.  Parents Involved in Community Schools versus Seattle School District Number 1 et al, sanctions school segregation.  For the most part, parents and the population at-large embrace this ruling.

People now have permission to do what they have long done, discriminate.  We can predict, with consent from the highest court in the land, prejudice will continue to grow.  Fractures and fissures will expand and the achievement gap will widen.  Currently, forty-three [43] percent of American school children are not Caucasian.  The education they receive has been sub-standard for decades.

Many segregated schools struggle to attract highly qualified teachers and administrators, do not prepare students well for college and fail to graduate more than half their students.

Integration in the few schools that have worked to improve opportunities for all, equally, has helped to a degree.  However, for the most part non-whites cannot or are not easily enrolled in the better schools.  Proximity and policies hinder any efforts to secure equivalent scholarship for students of color.  The Supreme Court decision will only serve to exacerbate a dire situation.

In its June ruling the Supreme Court forbade most existing voluntary local efforts to integrate schools in a decision favored by the Bush administration despite warnings from academics that it would compound educational inequality.

“It is about as dramatic a reversal in the stance of the federal courts as one could imagine,” said Gary Orfield, a UCLA professor and a co-author of the report.

“The federal courts are clearly pushing us backward segregation with the encouragement of the Justice Department of President George W. Bush,” he said in an interview.

The United States risks becoming a nation in which a new majority of non-white young people will attend “separate and inferior” schools, the report said.

Even when the schools are supposedly integrated, they are not.  Attitudes separate the races; reason and rational thought are but clouds, passing swiftly through the mind.  Hearts and souls struggle to survive when segregation exists around every bend and under every tree branch.  Subtle talk of lynching remains strong in society.  We see it in the schools; children act out what adult say they reject; yet in reality project.  We need only consider the circumstances of the “Jena Six” to support this notion.  It’s still about race in Jena, Louisiana.

Last week [July 2007] in Detroit, the NAACP held a mock funeral for the N-word.  But a chilling case in Louisiana shows us how far we have to go to bury racism.  This story begins in the small, central Louisiana town of Jena.  Last September, a black high school student requested the school’s permission to sit beneath a broad, leafy tree in the hot schoolyard.  Until then, only white students sat there.

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

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

It wouldn’t happen for a few more months, but that is exactly what the district attorney is trying to do.

The Jena Six

Indeed the stroke of a pen may put six innocent children into prison.  Young men, in the prime of their lives may realize what millions have known for centuries.  In America, Black and Brown are not beautiful. 

This is obvious as we watch the daily debate in the halls of Congress and on television screens.  Immigrants of color are not welcome.  Fences are built to “protect” white Americans from their own fears.  African-Americans are ‘busted’ merely for driving while Black.  White citizens within the United States are apprehensive.  Statistics show, soon, Caucasians will be in the minority.  Indeed, the Black and Brown population is increasing.  This is true in public schools, in our cities, and in the rural countryside.  Breeding, just as much in society, belies logic.

Almost nine-tenths of American students were counted as white in the early l960s, but the number of white students fell 20 percent from l968 to 2005, as the baby boom gave way to the baby bust for white families, while the number of blacks increased 33 percent and the number of Latinos soared 380 percent amid surging immigration of a young population with high birth rates.

Just as in centuries past, the poorest among us tend to congregate in ghettoes, not by choice, but in reality.  The impoverished are often under-educated.  They cannot secure quality positions in the workforce.  Those that lack academic expertise and not empowered to do what might benefit them as individuals and society as a whole.  Thus, they congregate in inner cities, live in substandard houses, and travel only as far as meager transportation systems allow.  The disadvantaged do not have the opportunities the more affluent among us have.

As the indigent population increases, conditions worsen.  Cities become more crowded, crime more prevalent, and students are less able to acquire knowledge.  Division gives rise to greater discrimination.  The cycle of separation is endless.  Eventually, we spiral downward.  Indeed we have.

The country’s rapidly growing population of Latino and black students is more segregated than they have been since the l960s and we are going backward faster in the areas where integration was most far-reaching.

Under the new decision, local and state educators have far less freedom to foster integration than they have had for the last four decades.  The Supreme Court’s 2007 decision has sharply limited local control in this arena, which makes it likely that segregation will further increase.

Americans love to label their country a “melting pot,” a stew that combines races, religions, and creeds.  However, this society is not nor has it ever been a delicious blend.  Those that consider themselves cream, rise to the top.  They take their friends and family with them. 

The elite ethnic groups are well educated.  Never would they wish to be identified as racist.  Auspiciously, these affluent persons and those with less dollars, but beautiful pearly white skin write the books, prepare the dictionaries and define themselves, “color-blind.”  Yet, we know, they are not.  In Jena, Louisiana, we recall that a Black student felt the need to ask if he might sit under a tree.  In America, even nature is reserved for the white persons to enjoy.

The next day, hanging from the tree, were three ropes, in school colors, each tied to make a noose.

The events set in motion by those nooses led to a schoolyard fight.  And that fight led to the conviction, on June 28, 2007, of a Black student at Jena High School for charges that can bring up to 22 years in prison.

Mychal Bell, a 16-year-old sophomore football star at the time he was arrested, was convicted by an all-white jury, without a single witness being called on his behalf.  And five more Black students in Jena still face serious charges stemming from the fight.

Caseptla Bailey, a Black community leader and mother of one of the Black students, told the London Observer, “To us those nooses meant the KKK, they meant, ‘Niggers, we’re going to kill you, we’re going to hang you till you die.'”  The attack was brushed off as a “youthful stunt.”  The three white students responsible, given only three days of in-school suspension.

In response to the incident, several Black students, among them star players on the football team, staged a sit-in under the tree.  The principal reacted by bringing in the white district attorney, Reed Walters, and 10 local police officers to an all-school assembly.  Marcus Jones, Mychal Bell’s father, described the assembly to Revolution:

“Now remember, with everything that goes on at Jena High School, everybody’s separated.  The only time when Black and white kids are together is in the classroom and when they playing sports together.  During lunch time, Blacks sit on one side, whites sit on the other side of the cafeteria.  During canteen time, Blacks sit on one side of the campus, whites sit on the other side of the campus.

“At any activity done in the auditorium-anything-Blacks sit on one side, whites on the other side, okay?  The DA tells the principal to call the students in the auditorium.  They get in there.  The DA tells the Black students, he’s looking directly at the Black students-remember, whites on one side, Blacks on the other side-he’s looking directly at the Black students.  He told them to keep their mouths shut about the boys hanging their nooses up.  If he hears anything else about it, he can make their lives go away with the stroke of his pen.”

DA Walters concluded that the students should “work it out on their own.”  Police officers roamed the halls of the school that week, and tensions simmered throughout the fall semester.

Ah, that stew, and the cooks.  When District Attorney Walters presumes and proclaims there are too many chefs.  They have spoiled the broth and the soup must stand alone, it simmers on the stove, unattended.  Finally, as the fire underneath the kettle heats the concoction, the mixture begins to boil.  Sauce spills out and many are burned.  Indeed, ultimately we all are.  For as much as we wish to separate the parts, we are each part of the whole.

However, sadly, the scars show more on darker skin.  Nonetheless, we all are wounded.  The pain wrought by an authorized and artificial separation affects every one of us.

It is true.  Education and the economy are inexorably tied.  If pupils in any population do not receive an adequate erudition, the entirety suffers, economically.  We all feel the effects of segregation.  What is in our cities and in our country is palpable in our schools.  Circumstances in educational facilities are felt fiscally. 

What white persons may wish to consider without the fear that currently drives them, is that they are never separate from those they prefer not to see.  What they do to beings with Black and Brown skin will ultimately have an effect on their lily white bodies. 

Caucasian Americans have a decision to make.  They can choose harmony or continue to allow their trepidation to hurt them, to harm us all.

We are in the last decade of a white majority in American public schools and there are already minorities of white students in our two largest regions, the South and the West.  When today’s children become adults, we will be a multiracial society with no majority group, where all groups will have to learn to live and work successfully together.  School desegregation has been the only major policy directly addressing this need and that effort has now been radically constrained.

The schools are not only becoming less white but also have a rising proportion of poor children.  The percentage of school children poor enough to receive subsidized lunches has grown dramatically.  This is not because white middle class students have produced a surge in private school enrollment; private schools serve a smaller share of students than a half century ago and are less white. 

The reality is that the next generation is much less white because of the aging and small family sizes of white families and the trend is deeply affected by immigration from Latin American and Asia.  Huge numbers of  children growing up in families with very limited resources, and face an economy with deepening inequality of income distribution, where only those with higher education are securely in the middle class.

It is a simple statement of fact to say that the country’s future depends on finding ways to prepare groups of students who have traditionally fared badly in American schools to perform at much higher levels and to prepare all young Americans to live and work in a society vastly more diverse than ever in our past.

Some of our largest states will face a decline in average educational levels in the near future as the racial transformation proceeds if the educational success of nonwhite students does not improve substantially.

While throughout the nation adults discuss busing or income based integration in the schools, we must realize that Band-Aids will never cover the lesions that lie beneath the surface.  What we do in our schools mirrors what is done in our neighborhoods.  If we are to truly prosper, Americans must accept and acknowledge that no matter the exterior color, beauty is within.  Skin is surface.  Depth is what we create when we educate our children.  An educated person, Black, white, or Brown benefits him or herself, as well as us all.

Currently, the dropout rates are extraordinary.  When young persons are not stimulated to think and are not expected to perform there is little reason to stay in school.  Dollars may seem more attractive and meaningful to those adolescents that receive little in their local educational facilities.  Whether greenbacks are appealing or not, in our society they are necessary for survival.  Possibly, money motivates more than the young.  I suspect, adults quantify their decisions based on budget.  Therefore, let us look at education as a pocketbook issue.  Perchance, the purse and its strings will garner some attention.

Broad policy decisions in education can be framed around a simple question: Do the benefits to society of investing in an educational strategy outweigh the costs?

We [researchers at Teachers College, Columbia University] provide an answer for those individuals who currently fail to graduate from high school.  The present cohort of 20-year olds in the US today includes over 700,000 high school dropouts, many from disadvantaged backgrounds.  We investigate the economic consequences of improving their education.

First, we identify five leading interventions that have been shown to raise high school graduation rates; and we calculate their costs and their effectiveness.  Second, we add up the lifetime public benefits of high school graduation.  These include higher tax revenues as well as lower government spending on health, crime, and welfare.  (We do not include private benefits such as higher earnings). 

Next, we compare the costs of the interventions to the public benefits.  We find that each new high school graduate would yield a public benefit of $209,000 in higher government revenues and lower government spending for an overall investment of $82,000, divided between the costs of powerful educational interventions and additional years of school attendance leading to graduation.  The net economic benefit to the public purse is therefore $127,000 per student and the benefits are 2.5 times greater than the costs.

If the number of high school dropouts in this age cohort was cut in half, the government would reap $45 billion via extra tax revenues and reduced costs of public health, of crime and justice, and in welfare payments.  This lifetime saving of $45 billion for the current cohort would also accrue for subsequent cohorts of 20-year olds.

If there is any bias to our calculations, it has been to keep estimates of the benefits conservative.  Sensitivity tests indicate that our main conclusions are robust: the costs to the nation of failing to ensure high school graduation for all America’s children are substantial.

Educational investments to raise the high school graduation rate appear to be doubly beneficial: the quest for greater equity for all young adults would also produce greater efficiency in the use of public resources.

America, you decide.  Will we continue to cultivate practices that endorse separate and unequal, or will we invest in integration.  Many parents applauded the Supreme Court decision that allowed their progeny to stay close to home.  Granted, the transport of students to schools far from the safety and sanctuary of the suburbs is less than desirable.  However, if we do not fully, adequately, and equally educate those that have less wealth and fewer resources we will continue to grow poverty.  Perchance it is time to ponder; people need people.  Blacks need Whites.  Browns require Reds, Yellow, and those whose skin is olive Green.  In actuality, each of us does best when we acknowledge we are one.

Pssst, someone please tell the Justices seated in the Supreme Court.  Perhaps, they are too isolated to notice.  Let us guide them to the window, ask them to look out onto the streets.  People of all races, colors, and creed commingle in this country.  If only they were encouraged to do so in the schools.

Schools, Segregation, Sources . . .

  • Report: Segregation in U.S. Schools is Increasing. By Matthew Bigg.  Reuters.  Washington Post.  Wednesday, August 29, 2007; 8:42 PM
  • pdf Report: Segregation in U.S. Schools is Increasing. By Matthew Bigg.  Reuters.  Washington Post.  Wednesday, August 29, 2007; 8:42 PM
  • It’s still about race in Jena, La.  By Amy Goodman.  Seattle Post intelligencer. July 18, 2007
  • White Supremacy and the Jena Six, Southern Discomfort, By Alice Woodward.  CounterPunch. July 10, 2007
  • The Costs and Benefits of an Excellent Education for All of America’s Children By Henry Levin, Clive Belfield, Peter Muennig, Cecilia Rouse.  Teachers College, Columbia University. January 2007
  • Roberts Record, Flood of Files, Awash With What Is Missing ©

    Senate Democrats are demanding access to more of John G. Roberts’ writings.  Before they approve the Supreme Court nominee, they wish to know who is this man.  However, information is inaccessible.  The Whitehouse refuses to supply it.  Filibuster is the form that the administration is adopting. The Whitehouse states it has accommodated requests for papers; they have saturated Senate offices with 15,000 pages of text.  These folios document Roberts’ service during the early Reagan years.  Some say, shifting through these sheets of paper is as reading tealeaves; there is much roughage and little of it advances a message.

    Senator Patrick Leahy wonders; is the Whitehouse, “flooding us with stacks of really unimportant materials in order to divert attention from those that the matter most.”  One never knows; however, we can surmise.

    The documents that were delivered are old. They date back to 1980 -1981.  In these years, Roberts served as a special assistant to Attorney General, William French Smith.  In this position, his power was limited.  His personal and moral views were, rarely, if ever visible. Roberts worked for the Attorney General. The views he expressed were not his own, they were those of his superior.  Therefore, pages from these years reveal little of the man.

    The documents from more recent years, those that the Whitehouse states are “secret,” are thought to be of greater importance.  Senators believe the latter pages will divulge more about the man.  The administration argues, these documents do not necessarily offer Roberts’ personal views. Some in the beltway say this stance is the “crown jewel of attorney client privilege.”

    In 1989, and through 1993, the ethical and private views of John Roberts were expressed in his work and writings.  During these years, Roberts served as Principal Deputy Solicitor General of the United States.  Roberts worked in the Bush senior Whitehouse.

    In this position John G. Roberts personally argued cases on behalf of the United States government.  He formulated opinions and helped to determine when the government would appeal adverse decisions.  Roberts was able to speak for himself in this office.  Access to the pages he generated while holding this post would be quite illuminating, if only this information was available. Thus far, it remains illusive!  The Whitehouse refuses to make these more recent writings public.

    There is much that remains private about Supreme Court nominee, John G. Roberts.  The candidate is scripted and encrypted.  Since President George W. Bush recommended the polished, polite, and prominent Harvard-trained attorney, he has traveled from Senate office to Senate office.  Roberts smiles and shakes hands.  He says all the “right” things, and yet, he says nothing!  He is afforded the luxury of “looking good on paper,” at least on the papers that are offered.  However, there are so many pages that are locked and sealed.  Senators and the public alike wonder; how might this man appear on these hidden pages?

    There are questions about where Judge Roberts stands on a range of issues.  The most prominent concern is abortion. There is much discussion about the discrepancy of opinions Roberts stated on Roe v. Wade.  Does he consider it “settled law,” or was the decision “wrong”?

    When a reporter asked of this inconsistency during a recent meet-and-greet session with Senator Dianne Feinstein [Democrat, California], Judge Roberts smiled.  However, noticeably, he did not reply.  Feinstein looked on quizzically and then interjected, “I don’t think he wants to take any questions.” Roberts added to the Senator’s assessment “No, no, no thanks.”

    Senators and the public assess, the nominee speaks on little.  What the Senators know is limited.  What public knows is this.

    [The source for the following is On the Issues.  For greater details, please travel to this resource.]

    John Roberts On Abortion

    • Wife is strongly pro-life. (July 2005)
    • Candidate finds no support for abortion rights in Constitution. (July 2005)
    • Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided. (July 2005)
    • Prohibit family-planning programs from giving abortion info. (July 2005)
    • Approves of Operation Rescue targeting abortion clinics. (July 2005)
    • Roe v. Wade is settled law. (July 2005)
    • Doctors receiving federal funds may not mention abortion to patients. (July 2005)
    • Limit funding for abortion clinics. (February 2003)
    John Roberts On Budget & Economy

    • No stance on record.
    John Roberts On Civil Rights

    • No paper trail on gay rights issues. (July 2005)

    • Approves of religious groups meeting in schools. (July 2005)
    • Opposed simplifying complaints against voting rights. (July 2005)
    • Weaken the separation of church and state. (July 2005)
    • Against Affirmative Action. (February 2003)
    • Should make secret settlements in some cases. (January 2003)

    John Roberts On Corporations

    • Whistleblowers can be fired for cause. (November 2004)
    John Roberts On Crime

    • Approves of prosecuting persons for eating French fries on city trains. (February 2005)
    • Guidelines for parole cannot add to sentence retroactively. (November 2004)
    • Police supervisors not liable for misdeeds of officers. (April 2004)
    John Roberts On Drugs

    • Approves of searching cars without particular evidence in mind. (July 2005)
    • Judges cannot overrule guidelines even if unjust. (October 2004)
    John Roberts On Education

    • No stance on record.
    John Roberts On Energy and Oil

    • Public committees need not disclose documents. (January 2004)
    • Approves of keeping Cheney’s energy task force secret. (September 2003)
    John Roberts On Environment

    • Allow development despite local endangered species. (July 2005)
    • No lawsuits to prevent mining on federal land. (July 2005)
    • Federal law does not protect species within one state. (July 2005)
    John Roberts On Families & Children

    • No stance on record.
    John Roberts On Foreign Policy

    • No stance on record.
    John Roberts On Free Trade

    • No stance on record.
    John Roberts On Government Reform

    • Disabled people can sue government for discrimination. (February 2005)
    • Approves of extending time limits for those wishing to sue lawyers for malpractice. (June 2004)
    • The Federal Government enjoys sovereign immunity. (January 2003)
    John Roberts On Health Care

    • No stance on record.
    John Roberts On Homeland Security

    • Military tribunals for terrorists are valid and just. (July 2005)
    • Bar veterans from suing the new Iraqi government. (February 2005)
    John Roberts On Immigration

    • No stance on record.
    John Roberts On Jobs

    • Union activists can organize outside of employment place. (July 2005)
    John Roberts On Principles & Values

    • Opponents will fight to hear these; however, they will hear Roberts’ issue stances. (July 2005)
    • Volunteer adviser to Bush in 2000 Florida post-election. (July 2005)
    • Adopted two children. (July 2005)
    • Public service history precludes “stealth candidate” label. (July 2005)
    • An establishment lawyer, with no all-encompassing philosophy. (July 2005)
    • Reliable conservative and perfect judicial temperament. (February 2005)
    • Positions a lawyer presents do not have to be his own beliefs. (January 2003)
    • There are certain areas where literalism does not work. (January 2003)
    • There is a right answer in every court case. (January 2003)
    John Roberts On Social Security

    • No stance on record.
    John Roberts On Tax Reform

    • No stance on record.
    John Roberts On War & Peace

    • As student during Vietnam, Roberts was disturbed by anti-war protests. (February 2005)
    John Roberts On Welfare & Poverty

    • Defended welfare recipients from losing benefits, pro-bono. (July 2005)
    Again, the President is the shrewd.  He knowingly chose a candidate with no real paper trail, a man whose credentials are impeccable.  Mr. Bush chose white, “right”, polite, and polished.  John G. Roberts is prominent, posed, and possibly, invincible.  Few doubt there will be any votes against this well-known unknown.

    Please read Washington Post, Few Have Felt Beat of Roberts’s Political Heart, by Michael Grunwald and Amy Goldstein

    If you, dear reader can reveal more, please do, tell us what you know.  Please, share with your Senators!  Though this Whitehouse is entrenched in secrecy, there are others that believe in freedom and democracy.  I recall the days when . . .

    • Since the initial writing of this post,  Voices of dissent are speaking. Senator Edward Kennedy accused Roberts, of having a questionable commitment to civil rights.  Former Democratic senator and vice presidential candidate John Edwards also criticized the Supreme Court nominee.  Edwards stated he is “a partisan for conservative causes.”  However, for the most part, the consensus remains.  Most Democrats state the candidate is “outstanding”.  They trust he will not be a “conservative activist jurist.”  Sadly, we are likely to see.

    Update:  You might enjoy reading more.  Brad DeLong writes on, John Roberts’s Judicial Temperament