Tag Archives: race

What’s In a Color?

21 Jan

Tonight is the night of the President’s state of the Union Address, so here is a question for the ages.

If President Obama’s father is black and his mother is white then one half of his lineage can be traced back through black ancestors while the other half of his lineage can be traced back through an equal number of white ancestors so…Why is President Obama a black man? Isn’t he also a white man?

Unless of course “race” as we really define it, simply is about the color of one’s skin and goes absolutely no deeper than that. And what does color define other than appearance?

“I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”                   -Martin Luther King, Jr.

I do hope that day gets here someday soon. How about you?

Who Has the Mob Mentality?

21 Sep

Here is something I didn’t know…

From 1882 to 1968, close to 200 anti-lynching bills were introduced in the U.S. Congress. Only Three passed the House and those were later filibustered in the Senate and never received a vote. Seven presidents between 1890 and 1952 petitioned Congress to pass a federal law but none was ever passed.

A lynching is when a mob (usually a group of white people) kills someone, (usually a black person ) especially by hanging, for an alleged offense and done without legal authority.

I’m supposing that the mob felt that there was safety in numbers because since there was no federal law prohibiting mass murder of this type (with the mass being on the opposite side of the murder equation) so it was left up to the states to enforce or prosecute said lynchings…which they usually did not…even when photos of the perpetrators were taken and made available. (usually by the perpetrators themselves!)

I became curious about this subject while watching the new Ken Burns documentary on the Roosevelts (oddly enough this was never a topic of discussion in public school even though lynchings were still occurring and were “legal” in my lifetime)

Anyway, anti-lynching bills came to the fore during the years of Franklin Roosevelt’s presidency and although he is well know as a social reformer President Roosevelt did not support the federal anti-lynching bills because he feared that support would cost him Southern votes during his many elections. (perhaps “feared” is the wrong word here) In any event he apparently believed that he could accomplish more for more people simply by getting re-elected and in 1939 he created the Civil Rights Section of the Justice Department and directed them to start prosecutions to combat lynching. How did they do?  They failed to win any convictions until 1946.

Things apparently got so bad that after WWII and during the cold war even the Soviet Union (of all unions) criticized the United States for the frequency of lynchings of black people and later in 1951 the famous actor Paul Robeson and the Civil Rights Congress argued at the United Nations that the U.S. government was guilty of genocide under Article II of the United Nations Genocide Convention because it failed to act against lynchings… The United Nations of course…took no action.

But then the FBI helped…by declaring people like Albert Einstein to be communist sympathizers for joining Mr. Robeson’s crusade.  J. Edgar Hoover (everyone’s heard of him) even went so far as to direct more attention to investigations of civil rights groups for communist connections than to Ku Klux Klan activities…like lynching.

So when exactly did the United States Congress pass legislation making lynchings a federal crime in America?

Amazingly, the answer is: Never

But On June 13, 2005, not Congress, but the U.S. Senate, formally apologized for its failure in the early 20th century, “when it was most needed”, to enact a Federal anti-lynching law… and by a voice vote no less (not a roll call)…I wonder why?

Thankfully people as a whole, or groups, have pretty much decided that lynchings are no longer in vogue and so we don’t have… any? or… as many? anymore… but can you imagine what must have been going through the minds of the protesters in Furguson Missouri while they were staring into the massed weapons of the police’s armored vehicles and automatic weapons following the shooting of Michael Brown?

Weren’t the police just daring them to go ahead and try something that night? To see what they might get? I’m sure the police had absolutely no doubt what they, the police, might get should they be “forced” to fire upon a goaded and angry mob of militant protesters…Off…does anyone doubt that?

Racism is not dead in this country. Dormant in most places, maybe, but dead? How could it be? Who has really tried to kill it or seriously eradicate it? I mean really… until it was just snuffed out…you know, like Native Americans at Wounded Knee… seriously, who?

Do the Clothes Make the Man?

27 May

The owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, Marc Cuban, made this comment during an interview that he gave a few days ago for which he took a lot of criticism and for which he later apologized…

“We’re all prejudiced in one way or the other,” Cuban said in the Inc. interview. “If I see a black kid in a hoodie and it’s late at night, I’m walking to the other side of the street. And if on that side of the street, there’s a guy that has tattoos all over his face – white guy, bald head, tattoos everywhere – I’m walking back to the other side of the street. And the list goes on of stereotypes that we all live up to and are fearful of.”

Following his apology a lot of folks then became upset about his apology because they felt that he had been pressured into it, and all because of what has become known as “political correctness”. After all what was wrong with his statement? He was just telling us about his fears wasn’t he? Can’t he be afraid of a black kid in a hoodie if he wants to be…without having to apologize for it?

And therein lies the rub, for what lies inherit in Mr. Cuban’s statement is the racist message that many white folks just don’t see…

Because, why isn’t a white guy in a hoodie, late at night, scary? If you put the bald white guy with all the tattoos in a hoodie then you wouldn’t be able to see his bald head and tattoos would you, so he wouldn’t look scary anymore would he? But the black kid in the hoodie is scary because???

A hoodie is just short for hooded sweatshirt which is one of the most ubiquitous pieces of apparel that can be purchased on this planet. They’re everywhere and I would venture to guess that almost everyone has one. Every sports team in America sells them with their logos attached. Every College and university in America sells them too, with their logos attached. Every High School in America sells them also and with their high school’s name and mascot prominently displayed. You can buy hoodies with names and logos attached from Amusement parks, to sporting goods companies, to church groups to the nation’s Armed Forces… to whatever you’d like.

So what makes them look scary when a black kid is wearing one? Is it the hood? When I wear my hooded sweatshirt and I put the hood on it means that I’m cold or it’s raining or perhaps if it’s neither raining nor cold I’m just trying to look cool. If a woman puts the hood up…she’s either cold, wet or just being cute like Little Red Riding Hood. But a black kid with a hoodie is scary because…the hoodie makes him a hoodlum? Or Could it be the black face inside? Is he less scary when he doesn’t wear clothes? Because that’s all a hoodie is isn’t it?

If you are not afraid of hooded sweatshirts then what are you afraid of?

Mr. Cuban painted a picture of a specific white male that scares him: Tattooed all over with a shaved head. We all recognize that stereotype as the description of a probable “skinhead” or “Neo-Nazi” type of white male and our knowledge of the violence inherent in those groups is what triggers our fear…but to simply describe a “black kid in a hoodie” provides no description at all. So what would be stereotypically specific to that description that would trigger his fear? Or trigger your perhaps instant recognition of what Mr. Cuban was getting at?

And that’s why he needed to apologize. and that’s why we all need to examine our fears more closely and ask how we got to be so afraid of what we are afraid of…in the first place.

Here in the USA we have always prided ourselves on our diversity and our cultural “melting pot” that makes us so varied in opinion and population, yet it seems that difference is what most Americans are afraid of…when oddly enough and Statistically speaking… and the numbers here are overwhelming…if anyone were to ever cause you harm, they would almost certainly be wearing the same color and kind of face as you.

Perhaps what we have most to fear is simply fear itself?

 

 

 

 

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