The Scariest​ Thing

The scariest thing about all that is going on in our country politically is not the antics and behavior of the president – although he is a troubling reality – but it is the people who are lining up behind this man, willing to throw away everything they worked for in order to prove themselves to be “loyal” to the president. Continue reading “The Scariest​ Thing”

Blacks Aren’t the Only Ones Who Live in Drug-infested Neighborhoods

In 1971, President Richard Nixon declared a “War on Drugs,” saying that drug addiction was “public enemy number one.” The use of heroin was apparently on the rise; soldiers serving in Viet-Nam were disproportionately addicted to that drug.

By the mid-60s, there was significant backlash to the intervention of the federal government as it passed legislation to protect the right of black people to vote. More black people voting threatened to weaken the capacity of state governments to pass and uphold white racist legislation. There had to be a way to neutralize the black vote; Nixon actually said that the “problem” was the blacks and there had to be developed a system to control them while not appearing to. Politicians had to feed into the fear of whites that blacks, allowed to vote, would have too much power. And so, code language was developed and used; “states rights” was one of the code phrases used; whites understood that phrase to mean that the federal government had overstepped its bounds by passing legislation which protected the rights of blacks, and the “war on drugs” was yet another phrase used to support the belief that black people were in effect the bane of American society. Conducting a “war on drugs” was effectively conducting a campaign against black people, making sure there was a reason to arrest and imprison them, moving them out of the way.

So, this war on drugs has proliferated; literally hundreds of thousands of black people are in prison for minor, non-violent drug charges. When or as the rhetoric about Freddie Gray has increased, news reports are careful to say that he has a “slew” of minor drug offenses and that his arrest took place in a “drug infested neighborhood.” Such language validates the feeling that he was a criminal, worthy, perhaps, of whatever police decided to do to him.

It hit me, though, that the “war on drugs” is severely deficient. If we take the term at face value, and eliminate the racial undertones, it is clear that many of America’s neighborhoods are “drug infested.” Street drugs may be the norm in poor neighborhoods, but in affluent neighborhoods, drug use is rampant as well. People who can afford it are addicted to prescription drugs, including Oxycontin and Valium and Xanax, to name a few. Powder cocaine use is notoriously rampant amongst the wealthy. And kids in affluent high schools, as well as in colleges, are known to use any drug they can get their hands on.

It hit me: If we’re going to conduct a war on drugs …then let’s conduct a war.

Instead of singling out the poor, who use street drugs, let’s go after the wealthy, who use and sell drugs just as much as do poor people. Since we have a penchant for locking up those who use and sell drugs, let’s lock up those affluent people who are smack dab in the middle of the drug culture.

Let’s do a war on drugs, for real.

It would be refreshing if the media would not keep lifting up that Gray lived in, or was stopped in, a drug-infested neighborhood. The media helps sustain the perception of black people as the primary problem drug users and sellers in this nation. That simply is not true, and it is disingenuous for the media to keep up its biased reporting, helping to support the myths that make way too many people feel smug about police arresting individuals and locking them up for years. The media have helped, and is helping, the process of dehumanizing and criminalizing black, brown, and poor people.

If it is a war on drugs that America wants, I repeat, let’s do a war …and go after ALL people who are engaged in using and selling drugs. There should not be such a blatant practice of racial and class discrimination based on a culture which is drug-infested in and of itself.

A candid observation …

Cliven Isn’t the Only One

Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy has caused  a stir, talking all that racist stuff.

But the “outrage” expressed by his Republican buddies seems a bit disingenuous, and their distancing themselves from him publicly is nothing more than politics at its best … or worst …depending on who you are talking with and in what venue.

Cliven Bundy wonders if black people were not better off being slaves.  He said, “They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom,” he was quoted as saying. (http://www.cnn.com/2014/04/24/politics/bundy-and-race/)

And everybody is in a tizzy. For what? Because of what he said, or because he said it OUT LOUD, exposing the way many white people probably talk in private?

I have had so many white people talk to me, with hushed voices, about how bad the racism is, about how many white people hate President Obama, and about how so many white people are anxious to “take the country back” from …black people.

According to these folks with whom I have talked, many of these people are obsessed with “saving” America from the influence of being governed by a black man. They are worried that Mr. Obama’s foreign policy has made him come off as weak, thereby plunging the country into morbid danger. They believe that the rise in Americans receiving food stamps, due to the break of the American economy, speaks to the president’s deficits and the danger of “big government,” although it was the economic policies of the previous, Republican administration that drove our country nearly to the depths of economic despair.

“All they want,” one white woman said to me, “is to get that black man out of the White House. They can’t see the good he’s done for the simple reason their vision is clouded by their hatred of him, just because he’s black. They’re afraid that he’s done too much for ‘the blacks,” and not enough for white people.”

Enter Mr. Bundy. Say what you want, Bundy might very well have spilled the conversation content of many a cocktail party attended by the very rich. “Big government” seems to be a government which attends to the needs of the underclass, and rich people seem to resent that, like poor people are getting something for nothing, and off their backs.

I guess they don’t see how it is the labor of the poor people who have propelled their corporations into economic bliss, even while the poor people become poorer.

Bundy said, “maybe I sinned.” But, he quickly added, he said what he meant. It’s in his heart, this opinion about what “the Negro” is like, and how blacks are lazy and how they abort their children and will not work…And …he added that if “those people” cannot take hearing what is his truth (I am paraphrasing), then Martin Luther King hasn’t done his work.

Huh?

Racism and white supremacy and the desire to hold onto it smolders right under the surface of the American psyche.  Every now and then somebody messes up and says out loud what is often said in private.

That’s what happened with good ol’ Mr. Bundy.

He’ll smart a little, but white Conservatives will never leave him. He’s a rich white man with a lot of resources. They might smack him on the wrists, and their strategists are probably telling them to distance themselves from  Bundy for the sake of the upcoming mid-term elections – not for the sake of the people he offended.

Meanwhile, Mr. Bundy will continue to be a welfare rancher, letting his cattle feed on land owned by the federal government. He has a subsidized ranch, seems to me, and it’s no less a drain on the federal coffers than is public housing or food stamps.

Thing is, he can afford to eat. He hasn’t paid for that land in years and owes millions. He won’t go to jail, or probably even get a fine. That, while blacks who have committed non-violent drug crimes are languishing in prison …making even more white people rich via the Prison Industrial Complex.

So, I’m not surprised at what Bundy said. He is giving voice to a lot of people who have wanted to say just that for a long time.

People get uptight if anyone says anything about racial inequality and injustice in this nation. As soon as anyone says anything about those phenomenon, describing how some policies absolutely work against black people,  we are playing “the race card.”

He played it like a champ. I suppose he is. And he’s not going to change and he’s not sorry. Neither are the Republicans who are voicing outrage.

Please.

Republicans, your outrage rings hallow because of your actions and policies. You have been so interested in making Mr. Obama a one-term president that you have felt free, in fact, compelled, to talk in private about how you feel about this race thing.

Damn Bundy! You let the cat out of the bag, in this, our post-racial society.

Who’s going to get it back in? The cat is running freely…

A candid observation…

George and Trayvon …and Justice

Trayvon Martin Protest - Sanford
Trayvon Martin Protest – Sanford (Photo credit: werthmedia)

 

 

OK. What is self-defense?

 

In the George Zimmerman trial, the defense is that George shot Trayvon Martin in self-defense. One witness last week said that Trayvon was on top of George Zimmerman. Proof, they say, that the horrific outcome of their encounter was self-defense.

 

But this is where I get stuck.

 

How can the incident have been self defense for George Zimmerman when it is HE who apparently followed Trayvon, in spite of being told by police not to do that?  Did he get out of his car and approach Trayvon, or did Trayvon go over to his car and confront him? If  Trayvon did that, then maybe we can say George was acting in self-defense.

 

But, unless I’ve missed it, nobody has said that. In fact, nobody has said how it is that George and Trayvon got into their encounter! Trayvon wasn’t shot and found at the side of George’s car. The pair was found on the grass. If Trayvon was on top, couldn’t that be indicative of Trayvon having had to fight for his life?

 

Though the criticism of Rachel Jeantel has been met with mixed reviews, and though her appearance in court was unpolished and unsophisticated, her testimony was consistent and honest. This young woman, it seems, would have had no problem saying that Trayvon encountered George, at his car. Her testimony, to the contrary, has her saying to Trayvon, “run!”  From what I’ve read and heard so far, it just seems that George and Trayvon were fighting because George continued to follow Trayvon and finally, got out of his car. One wonders if that happened if Trayvon turned toward what was his father’s apartment, and George, fearing the teen was going to do something wrong, decided to stop him.

 

That some of the television defense attorneys seem so confident about this self-defense claim of Zimmerman is upsetting. There seems to be a great deal of disdain that the case became “political.” But the case begged closer examination from the start. In the history of law enforcement officers and black people, there have been far too many suspicious deaths and questionable arrests with no accountability from law enforcement. That ongoing reality in black, brown and poor neighborhoods has created a spirit of distrust of law enforcement …but in this case, it was law enforcement that told Zimmerman not to follow Trayvon, and it was a detective who wanted to arrest Zimmerman at the outset for manslaughter. In spite of the complaints that the case became “political,” it was a politicization that needed to happen. Zimmerman needed to be held accountable.

 

In the history of black people and the law, the latter has been woefully unjust. If one reads Michelle Alexander‘s The New Jim Crow, or reads the story of how Emmet Till‘s mother pressed for the world to see what the men who killed her son did, one gets a snippet of what has been a painful reality for black people. Historically, it didn’t matter that facts may have clearly indicated that a black person was innocent, or a law enforcement officer had clearly been wrong; blacks were declared guilty and sentenced to long prison terms or death; law enforcement officers went on doing what they had been doing. The system protected them, in a way no less heinous that the Catholic Church has protected priests who molested little boys. That is a hard reality, but a reality nonetheless. If one reads Slavery by Another Name it is again fascinating to see how black people were systematically criminalized as the Convict Lease System sought to have blacks continue to be available for hard labor, in spite of the fact that what was being done by law enforcement – in cahoots with industrial and agricultural enterprises – was illegal. Blacks do not cry salt-less tears; the pain wrought by being treated as criminals by a system which is supposed to mete out justice, is and has been, very real.

 

So, this case, in spite of the complaint of things being “political” needed to come to be. Trayvon’s parents demanded, rightfully so, that there be an arrest so that their son just didn’t disappear and be categorized as just another troubled, trouble-making black kid. Now, if this thing about self-defense can be clarified. Did Trayvon confront George at his car, or did Zimmerman get out of his car and confront Trayvon on the grass?

 

It is a small point, but one that will help some, like me, understand what really happened that evening. Without that, if Zimmerman is acquitted, there will be just another layer of hurt added to the already present history of hurt that black people have carried because of the injustice of the justice system when it comes to blacks.

 

That kind of hurt doesn’t go away. It represents a dream,deferred. The dream is that, in spite of racism, there can be justice for black people. Who was acting in self-defense, really? If we can get that cleared up, then maybe some of us who are not understanding how anyone can say that what has been described is or was a case of self-defense, can relax…and wait for justice.

 

A candid observation …

 

 
 

Big Government Be Damned?

OK. So Nancy Pelosi says Republicans are anti-government ideologues. My question: So why do they run for office?

If one does not believe in government, then what do such political candidates believe in? Why spend literally millions of dollars to be elected to office? Why are they there?

What do these anti-government ideologues want? They don’t want the government to do anything for the underdogs of our society.  They prefer for the private sector to do that, some kind of way. But doesn’t the private sector, businesses, want to make money most of all, and are pretty much not concerned with the well-being of those who do the work?

President Calvin Coolidge said that the business of government is business. Some have said that democracy and capitalism, as two belief sets, are not compatible. Democracy as we have come to understand it, or the way many interpret it, is supposed to be “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” We who believe in democracy have internalized that to mean ALL people.

But capitalism is different. Capitalism seems to adhere more to the line of thought which promotes the “survival of the fittest.” Capitalists scorn those who cannot “make it,” and do not believe that democracy is supposed to mean that everybody can and should get the same benefits. Capitalists promote the thought that the only reason some people don’t make it is because they do not try, especially in America.

True, there are more opportunities for attaining the so-called “American Dream” in these United States, but some people really try to make it and just cannot. Maybe it’s because of extenuating circumstances or personality flaws, but maybe it’s because of something called discrimination. Surely that cannot be ruled out, no?

If it were not for government, people who have dealt with discrimination wouldn’t have had any protection, it seems. Blacks, browns, women …have all had to call on government for help and fairness when business and/or society would not budge. Government acted …albeit slowly …to insure a more level playing field for those who had been essentially pushed off to the sidelines.

So, there IS a need for government.

So, if there was no “big government,” what would happen to those who are making their way to center field now? Would there be a repeat of post-Reconstruction, when blacks, who had made political and economic gains were essentially pushed back into legalized slavery in the system known as “convict leasing?”

The federal government really stayed out of the Southern states after Reconstruction got underway, and slowly, state governments began to return their society to the way it had been before. The powers that be didn’t want blacks, and certainly not women, to have the opportunities that white men had. They didn’t even think blacks should have been freed from slavery.

Big government, then, has its place, it would seem. When people are trying to make money, they want to make money, not babysit or placate people who are having a hard time making it. They want the most work for the least buck, period. Without a big government that cares about people, many ordinary folks would just be out of luck.

That’s not to take away the fact that some people are extremely skillful at pushing against the resistance that comes with pursuing any dream. Some people just will not quit, and they deserve to move ahead. Vince Lombardi once said “winning isn’t everything but it is the only thing.” That is the mantra for many people and it works.

But some people with a little less chutzpah, or a whole lot more discrimination working against them, need help. Heck, even the most tenacious people need help. So if that help comes from big government, that should be OK.

Of course, this conversation is kind of superfluous. Everybody calls on government once in a while, whether or not one is pro or anti-big government. Everyone has a sense of entitlement when something catastrophic happens; then we want our government to kick into gear, and be BIG.  If the government does not, we get indignant.

But we tend to only understand, as human beings, our own needs, and cast the needs of others aside. We don’t even want to think about the “have-nots” too much; we avoid really getting to know why they are where they are, because to see their suffering makes us uncomfortable. That’s human nature. Nobody wants to see suffering.

So we work hard to make sure we are comfortable, and criticize big government it attempts to do things that will make the lives of some legitimately suffering people a little easier. We shut our eyes to the real barriers which spring up in a capitalistic world and society and instead blame those who struggle for the situations in which they find themselves. We regard those who cannot make it as moochers.

Some of them are, and some of them are not. We just don’t want to take the time to make the distinctions and give help where it is needed. We are content to charge the poor and blame the poor for being poor, thus helping to keep them poor, and we defy the government to try to change that reality. We in America have little regard, it seems, for the burgeoning population of older Americans who barely have enough to live on once they can no longer work. And so, many older Americans are living in deplorable conditions, and we will not look that harsh reality in the face.

What does it take to make people in a democracy do what democracy purports to do – to make a society where all people are created equal? Those who do not like such a notion say that to want that is to be socialist. OK, but really, that’s what our United States Constitution says – all men (people) are created equal.

We have a problem in our formative ideology. It seems that there is an untenable tension between capitalism and democracy, and capitalists are criticizing the very political system which has made their wealth acquisition a reality.

A candid observation …