Friday, July 31, 2009

James Crowe, II, Supreme Court Justice

Note: The will be a sudden change in tone as I discovere more while writing this piece. ~ No1KState

Folks, it's worse, much worse, than I had expected. I'm sort of embarrassed cause I should've ranted about this a month ago! I've had this article in my "read ASAP" file since it came out, but am only just now reading it all the way through. Cause the money quote comes on page 4.

Now, if you remember, last month, June 2009, before Michael Jackson died, we were all engulfed the the Ricci case, where a white firefighter sued the city of New Haven for reverse discrimination.

Also, remember all the white, male racial victimization played out during the Sotomayor hearings based on just 2 comments that I can think of, and only one which pertained to race, the comment about the "wise Latina woman"? I mean seriously. Were white men, who were members of one of the most powerful bodies in the world, really whining about anti-white and anti-white male bias? Yeah. See, they had their cake and ate it, too. Now, about that other cake that is yours . . . technically. . .

So anyway, get this:
Justice Antonin Scalia said at oral argument that he didn't believe New Haven would have canceled the test results if they'd yielded no white promotions.
Are you shocked? Stunned? Do you follow?

You know my biggest problem with that comment? Besides the fact that it's not true. It represents what so many white people fear from black anti-racist activists. They think we wanna turn the table against them. We don't, and the suggestion that we do is a not just a bit insulting and not just tad racist in and of itself. Do we wanna fire all the white power-brokers and replace them with people of color?

I'm sorry. That's not a good question, or rather, it wouldn't have resulted in a good answer. So let me say this. We don't want to rule the world. We'd just like to have fair and just say in our own. Is that too much to ask?

In light of Scalia's comment, could it not be the case that the Court did just what Sessions and Grahams feared it would? Except, to the benefit of white men (and two Latinos) and the disadvantage of men of color? And didn't Sessions, Grahams, and Pat-B all carry on as though the decision, handed down by four white men and man who wishes he were white, were some sort of vindication for white males?

And not is Scalia's comment disturbing, but he and Thomas joined Scalito - oh! I mean, Alito in this concurrence:

What Justice Alito sees in New Haven's actions, is not the good faith effort of a City with a history of discrimination in firefighter hiring to address a stark and alarming racial disparity in exam results. Instead Alito is certain that there's something of a racial conspiracy afoot - a conspiracy by black community leaders to discriminate against whites. . . . In fact, Justice Alito devotes pages and pages of his decision to examining the actions of Rev. Boise Kimber, who Alito describes as "a politically powerful New Haven pastor," including Kimber's "loud, minutes-long outburst" at a Civil Service Board meeting, Rev. Kimber's "adamant oppos[ition to the] certification of the test results" and his attempts to "exert political pressure" on the Board. All of this sounds like garden-variety aggressive rough and tumble of city politics, but to Alito it's evidence of racial quid pro quo.
Again, isn't Alito playing the very identity politics Hatch and Grassley claimed to fear . . . when the other "team" plays it, I guess.

And for that matter, seeing "that Congress amended Title VII in 1991 to enunciate the disparate impact standard explicitly," didn't the conservatives on the Court engage in . . . judicial activism?

:scary and voice music here:

And what's more is that they reviewed the facts of the case, role generally reserved for the appellate court. On top of that, and what resolves for me the racism on the court is that, "Justice Ginsburg in dissent says she believes that New Haven could have satisfied the new standard Justice Kennedy set forth, but [the majority] didn't give them a chance."

According to the experts I read, chances are employers, public and private, will still be able to practices for hiring and promoting that don't result in disparate impact.

Tell me again someone, preferably not someone I already know is racist, how is that not racist? Or, in the least, a prime example of white power and privilege, and the protection of white supremacy? How is that not racism at its finest? James Crowe, II, Esquire.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Hold the Presses!

Racism wasn't the motivating factor, or at least not the sole motivating factor, behind Chicagoan white flight. Watching C-Span today, I learned a lot!

It had always been my contention that what it meant, or at least what I mean, by institutional racism is that you have lots of little bits of racism that pile up and result in the disparities we see today. Also, I had always known the government had played some part in the disparity of housing and wealth accumulation; but, now it seems FHA red-lining was the catalyst behind several events that explain a lot of the disparities in outcomes we see today.

This isn't what I viewed on C-Span, and the sound isn't great, but it's as close as I could find.

A Pleasent Surprise

Sorry, can't play MJ. It's probably for the best.

Now, I make no exaggeration. I was actually pleasantly surprised to see this. Mainstream media isn't known honest discussion on race. And with so many people now rallying behind blue, if not white, the issue was being distorted.

I thought two points were particularly key. One, that all his diversity/racial profiling training doesn't make Sgt Crowley immune to racism. After all, Crowley says that he was "surprised and confused with the behavior" Gates showed. But why? What happened to all that racial profiling training? He should've known a black man sitting innocently in his house wouldn't be excited to have the police come question him about being in his own home! Eh, duh!

Two, observing that something done or said was racist is not the same thing as calling a person a KKK Grand Wizard bigot. Adding my on comment, white people need to quit acting like the sky is falling when they're accused of racism. Especially when chances are that you are racist. Racist and nigger ain't, and never will be, the same. And the fact that white Americans as a collective insist that it is is just an example of white privilege and narcissism. Only white people have the privilege of changing the subject to indict the accuser in ways that ignore the actions of the accused. Some in blue even suggested Pres Obama maligned all police officers by saying that Crowley had acted stupid! How exactly does that work? After all, even the Cambridge Mayor called Gates to apologize. And instead of talking about institutional racism that and the reality of racial profiling; and really, we're not even arguing over whether or not Crowley did a racist thing, but whether or he's racist, which is besides the point!

But let me stay focused. Kudos to Don Lemon and CNN.

Friday, July 24, 2009

President Barack Obama Is . . . Black?

It's kinda funny, actually. Now that Pres. Obama has characterized the policeman who arrested Henry Lois Gates as having acted "stupidly," all of a sudden mainstream media is confused. They wonder what happened to the post-racial Obama. Well, he was just a figment of white American imagination. An imagination that could lead news coverage to completely ignore his outlining of present day discrimination in a recent speech to the NAACP.

As a black person, I find the propensity of white Americans to narrowly focus on "exceptional" blacks quite vexing. Understand, I'm an "exceptional" black myself. Once in high school, a friend and I were pulled out of class for an interview with a local news channel on being high achieving black students. I can't remember everything that was said. I do remember talking about how instead of being "exceptions" to the rule, my friend and I were the rule; we were representative of a legacy of black love of learning.

After the interview, my friend and I talked about how exciting it would be to be on TV. We wondered if they would actually even show the interview. We wondered how it would be edited. Then we realized: it was possible to edit the piece as though we were chastising our black classmates! We panicked! We went back and talked to our principal about our concerns.

Cause Shelby Steele aside, most high achieving blacks don't wanna be portrayed as apart from our community. Shear statistics are that despite racism, you will have blacks who come to great success apart from athletics and entertainment. That doesn't mean that racism doesn't exist. It should only serve as a gauge of what black folks might accomplish if it didn't.

. . . Perhaps that's the cause for the mainstream misperception. And so, read this NY Times op-ed piece by Brent Staples:

July 24, 2009
Editorial Observer
President Obama, Professor Gates and the Cambridge Police

The American obsession with people who are said to transcend race began long before Barack Obama moved into the White House — long before he even thought about running for president. Affluent, well-educated black people were being appropriated as symbols of racial progress — and held up as proof that racism no longer mattered — back when Mr. Obama was still a youth in short pants.

White Americans have little experience with this brand of appropriation. In general, their personal and professional triumphs are viewed as the product of individual fortitude and evidence that the founding ideals of the nation are alive and well.

Successful African-Americans — whether they are sports stars, entertainers or politicians — are often accorded a more tortured significance. In addition to being held up as proof that racism has been extinguished, they are often employed as weapons in the age-old campaign to discredit, and even demean, the disadvantaged.

“Don’t talk to us about discrimination,” the argument typically goes. “You made it. If the others got off their behinds and tried, they would, too.” In this rhetoric of race, there is no such thing as social disadvantage, only hard-working, morally upright people who succeed, and lazy, morally defective people who do not.

Black Americans who find this line of argument appealing, along with the celebrity it brings them, typically end up trumpeting exceptionalism, playing down the significance of discrimination, and lecturing black people (nearly always in front of white audiences) to stop whining about racism and get on with it.

Mr. Obama has refused to play this role, even though people have tried to thrust it upon him. He has made clear all along that the election of the first African-American president, while noteworthy in a nation built on the backs of slaves, did not signal a sudden, magical end to discrimination.

He underscored this point again this week when he commented on the arrest in Cambridge, Mass., of the Harvard African-American scholar (and my longtime friend) Henry Louis Gates Jr. and about the tendency of police officers to target blacks and Hispanics for traffic stops.

These remarks could change how the news media sees the president’s views on race. Up to now, he has been consistently and wrongly portrayed as a stern black exceptionalist who takes Negroes to task for not meeting his standard.

He is not happy with this characterization. That was clear in a recent Oval Office interview with the columnist Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post. Mr. Obama complained about the press coverage of his speeches and seemed especially miffed about the portrayal of the one he delivered before the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People this month.

He suggested that the news media had overemphasized his remarks about “personal responsibility” — a venerable theme in the African-American church — while disregarding “the whole other half of the speech,” which included a classic exercise in civil-rights oratory.

The president described disproportionate rates of unemployment, imprisonment and lack of health insurance in minority communities as barriers of the moment. He contrasted them with the clubs and police dogs that black marchers faced in the 1960s and said that solving present-day problems would require comparable determination.

And “make no mistake,” he continued, “the pain of discrimination is still felt in America. By African-American women paid less for doing the same work as colleagues of a different color and a different gender.”

This was no exceptionalist rant. Speaking to Mr. Robinson, the president used the first-person plural revealingly when he said: “I do think it is important for the African-American community, in its diversity, to stay true to one core aspect of the African-American experience, which is we know what it’s like to be on the outside.”

During the campaign, Mr. Obama tended to avoid direct engagement with racial issues until circumstances (a tempest over his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright) made further evasion impossible.

He reached a similar moment when he was asked to comment on Mr. Gates’s arrest at a White House news conference on Wednesday.

In a remark that became instantly famous, he responded that the police acted “stupidly” in arresting Mr. Gates when no crime had been committed and the professor was standing in his own home. Mr. Obama further noted that disproportionate attention from the police was an unwelcome fact of black life in America.

People who have heretofore viewed Mr. Obama as a “postracial” abstraction were no doubt surprised by these remarks. This could be because they were hearing him fully for the first time.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Who in Hell Left the Gates Open?! [Updated}

Update: This is the most recent info I could find. Now. There are several out there who feel the whole ordeal was Gates's fault, that had he just complied with the police and been polite, he wouldn't have been arrested - police don't like to be shown up no matter what the other person's race is. All that junk, you'll have to google on your own.

Smooth Criminal (Radio Edit) - Michael Jackson

Me? I hope this finally convinces those individuals who believe that it's not about race as much as class that race does indeed trump class. I personally don't believe the police account that Gates became combative and accused the police of racial bias - mostly because Gates doesn't believe in the overarching construct and impact of racism. But assuming Gates did become belligerent, do the cops really arrest every person who becomes belligerent. Are there no white people who became belligerent with cops and didn't get arrested? I know that's not the case because I've already read a few personal accounts to the contrary.

And it's widely documented that white people accept more disrespect or combativeness from other white people than from people of color. It's also widely known, amongst black people at least, that any sign of resistance will be met with a billy-club and handcuffs. Like I said, I can hardly imagine Gates being belligerent. And the plain truth is he could've done everything the police asked and been as perfectly polite as Emily Post instructs, that does not mean that a request for the cops name and badge would not be met with handcuffs. Or maybe, considering all the cases of police brutality that I've seen and heard, I just think a black person has to give 110% effort at demonstrating their cooperation and respect for the police. Including but not limited to keeping your hands visible at all times. I mean for real. I know of a 19-year-old black guy who was the passenger in a car driven by a white person, and the black guy ends up dead. I'm not even sure the white driver was arrested. I know of a situation where a woman was in some kind of state of medical emergency, I can't remember if she had overdosed on some drug or was in a diabetic shock, but she was shot several times by the police and killed even though, and the police say because, from start to finish she did not move.

The other issue that convinces me this was about race is the neighbor. I mean, why was it necessary to describe the possible thieves as "black?" Whatever it may be and whatever the race of the neighbor, there are racial implications and reason for describing a suspect as "black." Maybe you didn't know you had any black neighbors and you're using the descriptor to indicate the people you're calling about don't belong there. Or, maybe you know that saying "dangerous black male" will get a quicker response. And just who is this neighbor and how long has she been living there? Maybe it's because I've lived in the same neighborhood all my life, or because my eyes are wonderfully healthy, but I'd be able to recognize my neighbors across the street even if it were just by their silhouette.

But there's another issue to address, and this no matter how racism-deniers (You know, like holocaust-deniers? My term, my term.) respond to this, is what it says to black kids and maybe even all kids of color. White people don't know it, but within the black community, adults do stress the importance of education. Work hard, go to college, be the best "you" you can be. We tell our young people that the sky is the limit, they can become whatever they want to become, racism is an obstacle but it has been, can and will be, overcome. In fact, I go as far as to say one of the many strategies of assault on racism is to use education to learn how the "system" works and be able to manipulate it, whether from the inside as a lawmaker criminalizing racial profiling or from the outside as a community activist. But here's the hard-hitting truth, the part of Pres. Obama recent speech to the NAACP that mainstream media ignores: at the end of the day, no amount of education or success can shield you from racism. And especially if it's coming from US senators during your confirmation hearing on your nomination to the Supreme Court and you're a wise Latina woman.
I just heard about this. Just heard about this. Here's what racismreview has to say . . . my thoughts, and a Michael Jackson song, later.

Racism in Cambridge: Harvard Prof. Gates Arrested
Posted by admin on Jul 21st, 2009 2009

Jul 21Arriving home after a recent trip to China and struggling to get into his own home in Cambridge because of a jammed door, esteemed scholar of African American Studies and Harvard Professor, Henry Louis (”Skip”) Gates, Jr., was arrested by police. According to one report (h/t @BlackInformant for a couple of these links), this incident began when someone alerted police:

A witness, 40-year-old Lucia Whalen of Malden, had alerted the cops that a man was “wedging his shoulder into the front door” at Gates’ house “as to pry the door open,” police reported.
None of the reports I’ve read online describe Ms. Whalen’s race, or why someone from Malden was doing calling the cops about a man entering his own home in Cambridge, but apparently it was her call that began this series of events. Here’s what happened next, according to several reports, this one from HuffingtonPost:

By the time police arrived, Gates was already inside. Police say he refused to come outside to speak with an officer, who told him he was investigating a report of a break-in.

“Why, because I’m a black man in America?” Gates said, according to a police report written by Sgt. James Crowley. The Cambridge police refused to comment on the arrest Monday.

Gates continued to yell at me, accusing me of racial bias and continued to tell me that I had not heard the last of him,” the officer wrote.

Gates said he turned over his driver’s license and Harvard ID – both with his photos – and repeatedly asked for the name and badge number of the officer, who refused. He said he then followed the officer as he left his house onto his front porch, where he was handcuffed in front of other officers, Gates said in a statement released by his attorney, fellow Harvard scholar Charles Ogletree, on a Web site Gates oversees,
As this story has begun to get out on the web in the last 12-24 hours, it seems to be touching off a tsunami of outrage at the persistence of racial inequality in the U.S., even for one of the most well-known and accomplished scholars. If this could happen to Skip Gates, at his home in Cambridge, Mass., it does not speak well for the state of racial progress in the country as a whole. As Rev. Al Sharpton said, “If this can happen at Harvard, what does it say about the rest of the country?”

But, make no mistake, this outrage is not universally shared. Almost as soon as this story broke, the undertow of white backlash to the reality of racism began to counter the outrage. For example, Bruce Maiman, writing at The Examiner, contends that the Cambridge police were just doing their job, responding to a call about a break-in to a home, and that Prof. Gates escalated the situation. Here’s Maiman:

So I ask you: Who’s the person who caused this encounter? Professor Gates is now being represented by another distinguished law professor from Harvard, Charles Ogletree, and they’re going to claim that this cop was racist and mishandled this situation because the fact that a black male was involved.

I don’t see any racism, do you? Tell me where? No names were called. Nobody was hassled or pushed around. Legitimate requests were made and cooperation was not forthcoming from a man, Henry Louis Gates, who know better than most people on this planet what happens when you escalate a confrontation with the police. But he does it anyway.

Is there racial profiling in America? Sure there is. But if you justify the behavior of Henry Louis Gates because other black men have been hassled by other police officers unfairly and thus you assume every black man has a right to a chip on his shoulder every time he meets a cop, you are asking for trouble.

This doesn’t appear to be racism. It sounds to me like a colossal case of extraordinarily bad judgment on the part of a distinguished African American historian who happens to teach at Harvard, and who certainly should’ve known better.
Here, Maiman’s interpretation of these events is completely steeped in the white racial frame. He says, “I don’t see any racism” and, of course, he can’t from the WRF. He only sees a black man “with a chip on his shoulder,” not the racist behavior of the cop. Maiman further diminishes Gates by referring to him as someone “who happens to teach at Harvard” and questions his judgment because he “certainly should’ve known better.” Known better than to what, try and enter his own home? Maiman is simply wrong on the facts here, and wrong on his interpretation of the events. Maiman is like other whites, as philosopher Charles W. Mills writes, “unable to see the world he has created,” unable to see how his not-seeing-racism contributes to the problem of racial inequality.

The research on the racial inequality in policing, arrest, and incarceration in the U.S. is starkly clear (as we’ve recounted on this blog hundreds of times): those who are black or brown, particularly men, are much more likely to be stopped, frisked, harrassed, arrested and convicted than whites. And, this inequality in criminal ‘justice’ is part of a larger pattern of racial inequality that operates systematically throughout U.S. institutions. The irony, for those that have followed Gates’ scholarship closely, is that he has tended to downplay the significance of institutional racism in the contemporary U.S. Reports are that Gates’ is “shaken” by this experience, as anyone would be. This is a horrifying, and yet all too common, experience for black men in this country. Perhaps Gates’ next volume will be called “Harvard Professor, Still a Suspect.”

More good sociological analysis on this case (and others) from City College Prof. Dumi Lewis, here.

As a history student, and nerd, I know Gates and hold him in fairly high regard. However, I've always been disappointed in his views, or maybe his lack of outspokenness, on systemic racism. I wonder if this will do anything to change his thinking. Though, regardless, whatever it matters and to the extent that I can, I got his back like black.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Happy Birthday, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela!!

Disclaimer: I am by no means condoning violence. I only ask a question.

Yeah, I'm still on my Michael Jackson kick. Now, apparently no one could get him off drugs. But did anyone at least try to get him out of those tight pants? If you don't like the song, don't play it.

Today, July 18, is Nelson Mandela's birthday. A lot of people, believe it or not, hold him in low regard. I don't know how well known it is that one of the things he was jailed for was bombing government buildings. Since you can get his biography pretty much anywhere, I wanna talk about militant activities, his Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), translated Spear of the Nation.

I wanna ask you, at what point is violence okay and when does it over-reach? Here's a good introduction on just war theory. Here are two articles that ask the question I ask: what's the difference between (just) war and terror? Admittedly, the question is not new and I'm no special genius for asking.

Don't get it twi'tted. I am a special genius, but asking this question isn't why.

It's just something that gnaws at me, especially when people like Pat-B get on their white, male high horse about who's accomplished what here and around the world. I mean, think about it. Really think about it. You don't actually have to be a historian to realize the only thing the separated white men from everyone else was weaponry. Which isn't to say for fact that there were, or are, better alternatives. That's besides the point. My point is just that there are other, viable alternatives to what European patriarchy, exploration, colonialism, and slavery has begotten us.

Well . . . that's the point in response to the argument that "white men built America!" Right? Cause it's not like there was nothing here they didn't have to destroy and decimate.

So, anyway. Back to Mandela and my question about war and terror.

You know, one of the things that I find most ironic about the "war on terror" is that war itself is terror. Right? Lets ask Iraqis and Afghans and Pakistanis how they feel. Do they not feel terrified?

And what about the Palestinians? Are they not terrorized?

And what about black men? Why shouldn't black American men feel terrified when a police car starts slowing behind them, or beside them? I know Latinos in Arizona gotta live in terror.

So there's that.

I've been wondering about this for years and still don't have a clear answer. The first time the thought crystallized for me was when I learned about the Kikuyu war for Kenyan Independence against Britain. You probably know it as the Mau-Mau Rebellion.

I mean, what makes George Washington any different from the leaders of the militant wing of Hamas? What makes John Adams or Thomas Jefferson any different from Hezbollah?

Why do we so readily accept these simplistic labels like "terrorist" which only describe, at best, one side's "truth." I just think that's something we should start considering before we decide whose violence to sanction and whose violence to forbid. And we should make these judgements based on what's just and what's right, not simply what's in America's best interest.

Some claim that the actions Mandela committed took lives. Mandela says otherwise; but he is rather open and honest about having supported violence in response to government terrorism. The guy isn't a pacifist by any means. He ended up on our "terrorist watch" list because initially, our government supported South Africa's apartheid state. Any group that challenged white minority rule was a "terrorist organization," and a terrorist group for South Africa was a terrorist group for the US. In fact, the US vetoed 4 UN resolutions condemning apartheid in 1982. It wasn't until 1986 that Congress passed legislation restricting trade with South Africa; they overturned President Ronald Reagen's veto, which is but one reason black folks don't too much care for him. In 1991, President George HW Bush opened trade, even though the first fully democratic elections didn't take place until 1994.

In fact, the WMDs Suddam Hussein used against his own people are weapons he got from the US. Osama bin Laden became a hero while fighting "Charlie Wilson's War" against the Soviets. He got his "training" from the US. Fidel Castro came to power because Cubans were tired of Miquel Batista, a US supported dictator. The CONTRA's got their money from the US, not just by the Iran-CONTRA affair, but by the government willfully and knowingly allowing cocaine to flow in to South Central LA.

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela and other members of the ANC are heroes and heroines because he fought for freedom and justice. There's no question that the loss of life is terrible, but what other means did they have? We have to ask ourselves, still, what's the difference (just) war and terror? Why do we demand so much more of people fighting justice and freedom than we do of people who start wars? Is it the expectation that those who fight for good are good and pure themselves? That's just a simplistic way of understanding the world.

Don't get it twi'tted. I'm not suggesting that violence be the first weapon against injustice. I only ask when is violence justified, and what, exactly, should be the last weapon against injustice? The nonviolent Black Freedom Movement (or Civil Rights Movement) accomplished a great, great deal.

After all, just 40 years after Martin Luther King, Jr, symbol of the Movement in collective memory; and, after 40 years (and continuing) of white backlash; and, 8 years of George W Bush, we have our first black president! Who, by the way, faced public oppositional "Taxed enough already!" parties and talk of secession not 4 months into his presidency, and who chastises the black community publically more than he talks about racism.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Do I Need to Scream?

:sigh: What a musical genius. Wow. And I have to admit, "Black or White" aside, I didn't realize Michael Jackson was that attuned to race in America.

So anyway. We know I'm a frequent commenter over at A discussion that's still ongoing (can you say "still ongoing") got me to thinking.

A commenter, Gloria, said something very interesting.

I'm gonna cut and paste cause it's easier than trying to explain it to you myself. Now, of course, she denies systemic racism. I guess this is a rhetorical question:

You truly believe the United States of America is full of horrible white supremicists who systematically practice white racism each and every day?
So of course no one had said that. That's what she thinks we think. I'd like to know if that's what all white people think of black anti-racists. But that aside, the answer to her question is fairly simple: yes.

Does this mean we think all white people are evil little devils plotting and planning how to keep black Americans from being as successful as white Americans. No! That'd be silly!


Do I think the majority of white Americans would freak-out and have a meltdown if African Americans enjoyed the same privileges that have? Yes. You saw those "tea parties" after the first ever black president. You've heard of the recent spike in hate crimes and DHS's concerns about right-wing extremism. Can you imagine if there were employment, housing, education, and lending equality? Can you imagine if their were equality in the justice system? Can you imagine the unemployment rate being the same for all racial and ethnic groups? I mean, do I need to remind you of the race riots throughout history?

I probably do, huh? There've been anti-black race riots in Detroit, Boston, Wilmington (NC), and Tulsa (OK) just to name a few. I hope you've seen the movie Rosewood at least once. I get so angry, I've only been able to watch it once.

And recall, the construction of the interstate highway system uprooted black communities and destroyed thriving black business districts. I'll try to get more info to you about that, but this link will have to suffice until then. And there's more. I just need to move on.

So you see the historic reaction of white America to black progress.

So, no, black people don't think all white people are evil, mis-shapened creatures who only look human to us. We just think y'all are complicit and guilty in maintaining a system that by its very nature disadvantages us. If you don't like that, then stop being so complicit in the racism happening around you, and we'll think differently. Don't get me wrong. We don't think this of each and every white person. Tim Wise is cool. Joe on racismreview is cool. A couple of my high school teachers, Prof Janken at UNC. Here's a cat who seems to get it, both he and his student. Big ups to the white folks who protested the Valley Club. I mean. Every black person know at least a few white people who are honestly anti-racist. But there're 70 of you to every 13 of us. You do the math. (No seriously. My head is buzzing and AP stats is fuzzy.)

Anyway. Back to Gloria's comments.

I am a teacher during the school year, and in the summers I hostess at a restaurant here in town. I have worked with some lovely black hostesses. I have also worked with some black hostesses who celebrated being black in a negative way. They enjoyed talking the black street talk that Bill Cosby ( read my former post) detested. They knew better because they didn’t speak that way to the guests. However, they spoke that way to their fellow employees and To Me.
I’ve heard them say, endless times, if the manager reprimanded them for being late or leaving their post to take a break while the restaurant was slamming busy, “He racist! Dat why he doin’ me lak dat.” would someone respond to that please? Is poor behavior excusable Because You’re Black?
I did respond. I pointed out that what her coworkers were probably referring to was that when white workers were late or left their post, the manager didn't speak to them in the same disrespectful, condescending tone. I asked if possibly there were a difference in how the manager reprimanded everyone. Gloria didn't answer my question.

Here's the kicker and what inspired this post:

I know many lovely black people. Funny..I never hear them yell racist! They just go about their business of working hard, getting an education, and being good friends and nice people.
I should tell you that Gloria's had a wide-range of experiences. Her grandfather is an Italian immigrant. Her father was held up by a group of black teenagers. None of that excuses her racism; I just thought it would only be fair to Gloria to give you a bit more of her frame of reference. Also, she said a whole lot more. Much of it absent any facts. And a good chunk I didn't read. Sorry.

Now, let me get to the meat of this post. I'll have to share with you my line of thought, if only just to have it here where I could read it. My initial reaction to that last comment is that that's how the overwhelming majority of African Americans conduct ourselves. We don't complain about racism to our white coworkers, neighbors, or friends. We complain at the barber or beauty shop. We complain at church. And it's not the topic of every conversation and we don't think about it every day or even every week or month. But when we do, we don't complain to the white people in our lives.

Then it occurred to me that I hear and read that a lot from white people, that they have black friends who don't complain abour racism and what's wrong with the rest of us. So I'm thinking, maybe black people should complain about racism to the white folks in our lives. Usually we don't because we're already upset and if we have to hear our white "friend" tell us we're probably "over-reacting," we're gonna "pop go the weasel till the weasel go pop!" (That's a shout out to Bernie Mac.) But I'm thinking, maybe we oughtta go ahead and risk it so more white people can understand how frustrated it can be to be judged negatively based on the color of our skin. And don't even go there. The little bit of irritation most white people feel when the learn, or remember, that most black people regard them with suspicion is jelly beans compared to what we go through.

Then I have this sudden, crystallizing thought. I don't think I've ever heard or read a white person say they didn't no any black person to complain about racism. They do the same thing Gloria did: separate black people into good and bad, and decide that it's the opinion of the(ir) good blacks that matters.

Which makes sense on the face of it, right? No one who really wants to know the news goes to Fox for information, cause Fox is bad. If two kids get in a fight, you may ask both what happened; but you only really take the word of the kid known to be good.

But, there's a problem with what Gloria and others like her do: just complaining about racism makes you a bad black person. Go back and look at what she says about the black hostess at the restaurant. Really think about what she says about them. They seem to perform their duties well. It doesn't seem as though she tried to get to know them personally, even though they did reach out to her.

(Huh? Where did I get that from? When we're talking to a white person, we use standard English. We know what white people think if we don't. Even I use standard English with all my white acquaintances. I can only think of 2 white friends I'd use black English with, and we're fairly close friends. So to talk in our vernacular at the workplace to a white co-worker shows so effort, or expectation at least, at comraderie.)

Gloria doesn't really have anything bad to say about them except that they will come to work late and not stay at their posts during busy hours. That's not really bad. I'm sure their were some white co-workers who showed up late and left their posts during busy hours, too. So really, there're only 2 complaints Gloria has with these hostesses: 1) They dare speak black vernacular to her; 2) They assert that the only reason the manager spoke to them the way he did was that they're black. Even notice that. She doesn't say that they complain about being reprimanded at all, just that the manager did them "lak dat" [sic]. So part of what makes them untrustworthy for Gloria and folks of her ilk is their complaining about racism. You can't have a formula where whether or not you trust someone's take on racism depends on whether or not that mention it in your presence. And if you do, it can't be that the ones who don't complain about racism are the ones you listen to. Cause like I said, black folks generally don't complain about racism to our white acquaitances. Though, maybe we should.

Plus, it's not like Oprah and Bill Cosby and President Obama don't acknowledge racism. They do. They just focus on achieving inspite of. So referencing them in your "there's no systemic racism" argument only shows the selectivity with which you listen to black people, in the few ones in positions of power.

So stop saying you know (these certain) black people who don't complain about racism (to you) and so therefore it must not exist. That's just plain ole ign'rant logic.

Scream - Michael Jackson

Monday, July 13, 2009

Man in the Mirror, No1KState Remix

Hopefully, this song is saying as much as I hope. Though I tend to focus on racism, and do suggests white people shut up and take a look at the man in the mirror, I also have a great concern about issues of justice and righteousness all around the world.

For clarification, according to Glen Harold Stassen and David P Gushee, in Kingdom Ethics (p151), the Hebrew word for "righteousness" means "delivering justice."

--the kind of justice that delivers the downtrodden from domination and brings the outcasts into community.
So, what I mean by righteousness is that we live in a society where everybody is treated equally in receiving justice, and even wrongdoers are restored back into a place of good-standing with the community. You may be familiar with principles of restorative justice, which includes restitution to victims of crimes, whether the "criminal" is an individual, a group, or a state.

The implications for this should be fairly obvious in terms of race. There's no way you can look throughout American history, from the moment some person realized that African indentured servants couldn't mix in with the crowd and escape, to the present, and claim that African Americans have received or are receiving justice.

But I don't just mean justice and righteousness in that a person who's robbed gets all his/her stuff back, or in that when a large company like Exxon destroys entire communities, that company pays the full cost to restore the communities. So, yes, I mean that even large corporations can't buy their way out of trouble. The way I'm using it, big financial executives would not receive bonuses; we'd make sure people stayed in their homes; credit would continue to flow; the banks would still have large amounts of debt to pay; and, we put in place regulations that would prevent these things from happening again. I believe you get the gist of that. That's justice, right?

Ok. So what do I mean when I say righteousness? Think of it first on an individual level, right? A righteous person who sees someone in need tries to meet that need, regardless of how the needy got there. See, in American capitalism, for the most part, everyone is supposed to sink or swim on their own. We leave everything to the "invisible hand" of the free-market. So, we have an entire group of people we call the "working poor" because even though they're good people and they're working as hard as they can, their work isn't valued enough such that they get paid a living wage. So, our economic system may allow for a waitress to work as hard as she can and be as nice and kind to all her customers as she can but still not make a decent income. So, the impetus (I hope I'm using the word properly.) is on the customer, and a righteous customer will give her a sizable tip. Right?

Okay. When I say righteousness, I include entire groups of people, whether it's one ethnic group to another, or a government to it's constituents, or one nation to another. I mean that, for example, the US government would do for the waitress what we intend for the customer to do. That is righteousness.

So, for me, justice and righteousness includes holding wrongdoers accountable, no matter how big or small. Obviously, they include not exploiting the poor. But I also mean the extent to which the government, in the case of the US, guarantees everyone healthcare, decent housing and food, and a competitive education. There are a number of ways to ensure this, from making the minimum wage always a living wage to single-payer health care. Again, I hope I don't have to spoon feed you what this means for race. But I will if necessary. The point is that we as a country don't just accept that, "There'll always be some unemployment," and hope we're not the ones unemployed. It's not that we want everyone at all times to have a job or career or business. It's that we don't leave citizen to the whims of the free-market.

Because, at the end of the day, the "government" is made up of people we elect to represent us, who're all presumably "good" people. So the "government" should be doing what we, a group of "good" people 300million strong, would do if we each had the power. Here's the dirty little secret: collectively, we each do have the power in the form of our representative democracy. (This is the reason why most black people hold all white people accountable for racial discrimination. We know that if even just a bare majority of white Americans really wanted to ensure equality for everyone and was really "sorry" for what happened in the past, the situation in regards to race would be drastically different.)

So, I don't just ask you to look at the "man in the mirror" as an individual. I ask that Americans look ourselves in the mirror as a nation. What kind of Supreme Court do we really want? I ask that the West look at itself in the mirror. Are you really carrying out foreign aid as though you're dealing with people who are your equal? I ask the all leaders of governments and heads of states, regardless of the legitimacy or perceived lack thereof of your position, look yourselves in the mirror. Do you really want your people to prosper, or just yourself and some friends? Whatever your answer is, for heaven's sake, be honest!

Cause if you're a white person, or a man, or anyone, who want to "conserve" the status quo, you're racist. If you really don't wanna be racist, we can talk later about how to make the US a nation of equality and not white supremacy. But the first step to solving a problem is admitting you have one. Take a look at the "man in the mirror, make that change."

And this is my response to just about every recent news development.

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But Don't Jack My Genuis