Truth Rises, Always ..

Truth, crushed to the ground …always rises.

Perhaps it is happening that our nation will begin to open its ears and hear the stories of the way it has treated too many of its citizens, because their voices are rising.

In her work investigating the stories of African-Americans, primarily males, who have been killed by police and/or vigilantes, SpiritHouse Project co-founder  Ruby Sales receives  stories from mothers and relatives of slain and all-but-forgotten husbands, brothers and sons who met their deaths in that way.

They call looking for help as they seek answers or justice or both. Sales, who has been looking into these murders for a while, takes each case with care, concern and outrage that so many have been murdered with local, state and federal governments looking the other way.

This week, she received notice that on Sunday, November 10, there will be a memorial service for a man named Isaiah Nixon, a black man who  at age 38 was killed by two white men in 1948 after he  had exercised his right to vote.

Nixon’s death has been being investigated by the office of Margaret Burnham, who is a professor of law and the Director of Civil Rights and Restorative Justice at Northeastern University in Boston.  Christopher Bridges was a law student at Northeastern working with the Civil Rights and Restorative Justice project when he resurrected the case.  He uncovered the story, and, after two years of work to nurture interest in Nixon’s death, Burnham’s his work has resulted in awareness and interest in this man and his situation.

According to Bridges’ work, , Nixon,  a United States military veteran, returned to his home in Alston, Georgia, after voting in the Georgia primary election.  Shortly thereafter, two white men who were also brothers, showed up at Nixon’s house and ordered him to come to them. When Nixon refused, the two men shot him three times – as his wife and six children looked on, horrified. He was taken to the hospital, but died 48 hours later.

The two men were tried and acquitted of Nixon’s murder and a fund was launched by a local newspaper and the NAACP to relocate his family to Florida.

Isaiah Nixon, who had fought for his country, was shot and killed and nobody seemed to care.

Burnham’s office said the memorial service to be held on November 10 in Mt. Vernon, Georgia, was planned intentionally for that date – as Nixon was a war veteran.

Sales, who says white and black America has bought into the myth that black people are “thugs and animals,”  has solicited the expertise and help of Burnham as she investigates deaths such as Nixon’s. These types of murders, she said, are a part of social control wielded by law enforcement.

“Somewhere in our souls, we have given up our children,” Sales said, recalling the ways she remembers personally how police used to terrorize black children and youth. There is a difference between people now and then, she said. Back then, she said, “our parents refused to give our children up.” Today, parents have given into the myth that says black people are …”thugs and animals.”

At Sunday’s memorial service for Nixon, relatives will attend.  Although nobody knows where Nixon is buried, there is a move in Alston to construct a permanent marker in his memory.

Some 60 years after his murder, that is good.

But the troubling thing is that for so long, he lay buried somewhere, all but forgotten. He was lynched by gunshot…and forgotten.

Sales believes there are many, many more like Nixon.  She is working to make sure the SpiritHouse Project uncovers as many as possible, giving voice to voices that were cruelly silenced just because they were the wrong color.

Truth, crushed to the ground, always wiggles its way out of the dust. It always comes out, always rises.  Nixon’s voice is rising.

A candid observation …








The Big Business Called Prisons

Cover of "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarcer...
Cover via Amazon

While the country, or parts of the country, express justified rage and anger toward Rush Limbaugh and his hideous and inappropriate statements directed at Georgetown Law School student Sandra Fluke, another outrage is being allowed to move forward, quietly but steadily.

In a February 14, 2012 article posted on The Huffington Post, the story was told of how a private corporation, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) is offering cash-strapped states big money for their prisons. The article, by Chris Kirkham, said,”As state governments wrestle with massive budget shortfalls, a Wall Street giant is offering a solution: cash in exchange for state property. Prisons, to be exact.”

CCA is a for-profit operator of prisons. That means the corporation, and others like it, exist because there are prisons; their financial success depends upon prisons continuing to exist and continue to be filled. According to Kirkham’s article, CCA is “a swiftly growing business,with revenues expanding more than fivefold since the mid-1990s,” as the “War on Drugs” became a major issue in America.

Harley Lappin, who retired as the head of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, is the Chief Corrections Officer (CCO) of CCA, and Board members include only one African-American, Thurgood Marshall, Jr., the son of the late United States Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall.

What’s the big deal, you ask? The big deal is that America cannot seem to let go of its plantation system. With money in the picture, as the driver of how prisons are operated, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that there is a big incentive for America to keep its prisons filled. CCA is doing business; it is not interested in rehabilitating people. In a recent letter to governors of 48 states, Harley Lappin wrote “…CCA is earmarking $250 million for purchasing and managing government-owned corrections facilities. The program is a new opportunity for federal, state or local governments that are considering the benefits of partnership corrections.”

In that same letter, Lappin said that on January 12 of this year, CCA assumed ownership and management responsibility in a transition described as seamless. This transfer culminated a process that, according to state officials, generated more than $72.7 million in proceeds for Ohio taxpayers (he was talking about the purchase of an Ohio prison),about $50 million of which was allocated for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.”

What does all of this mean? It means that the “new Jim Crow,” as Michelle Alexander has so excellently written about in her book by the same name, is alive and kicking. Who will fill the prisons? Black and brown people mostly, as has always been the case. What Alexander describes in her book as “military policing” will increase in urban neighborhoods, so as to make sure the source of profit for those who are buying the prisons, does not disappear.

Clearly, the target of prison inmates, since the Reagan Administration’s declared “War on Drugs” has been black and brown people, primarily men, who are addicted to crack cocaine. From the time the “war” began, there was money to be had for state and local law enforcement agencies for the numbers of people they arrested. Now, with this blatant “prison for profit” industry rising as one of the, if not the, fastest industries in America, there will be even more money earned on the backs of America’s black, brown, and poor people.

CCA has recently found an additional source of revenue-makers: illegal immigrants. The HP article said that CCA has found a “new opportunity in the business of locking up undocumented immigrants.” It’s business, not personal, right?

While the politicians are mouthing off about contraception, nobody talks about this unethical use and misuse of law enforcement; in fact, the very existence of this “in-your-face” modern day plantation system leads one to muse, “what law enforcement?” If the focus of arrests and imprisonments were all drug users, prescription drugs and powder cocaine as well as street drugs, there would be much less room for cynicism. As it stands, however, under the guise of “law and order” and “protecting the taxpayers,” black and brown people are disproportionately going to be the ones who help CCA and other for-profit prison corporations get wealthier and wealthier.

There is so much that goes on in this country that “we the people” know nothing about. It is by design. If we do not know, “they” can do what they want. And in this instance, that is exactly what is happening, and what has been happening since the Conservative darling Ronald Reagan declared this infamous “war on drugs.”

With the war on women being waged in this GOP presidential nominee battle, as well as the war on voting rights, primarily for black, brown and elderly voters, and this unsavory ploy to keep prisons filled with only certain offenders, it makes me wonder about all this talk about “values.” The term seems to have a very narrow focus, but then, that is nothing new. From the beginning, “we the people” was a very narrowly defined group of white, male property owners, and the fight going on today seems intent on trying to keep that vision from slipping into obscurity. Women have pounced on the attack on themselves and their rights, but black and brown people, and now, undocumented immigrants, need to pounce on the very sneaky attack being waged on their very capability to remain free and eligible to become a part of “the American Dream.”

If CCA continues to have its way, the number of black and brown people who are in reality off of the plantation will be greatly decreased, and the new “massa,” big business, will go merrily on its way.

A candid observation …

White Men Behaving Badly

I have watched and listened to the real-life drama unfolding as a discussion about contraception has morphed into first, an accusation against President Obama, that he is waging a war on religion, and now, into a war on women and women’s rights.

And what I am seeing is white men behaving badly in an all-out effort to “take back” America.

At first, the cry heard from Republicans to “take our country back” seemed squarely aimed at President Barack Obama. Though nobody wants to admit it openly, there is a fair amount of resentment from many Republicans that President Obama, a black man, is in the White House. South African playwright and writer Athol Fugard said the same in a recent interview with Charlie Rose on March 1, 2012: “Much of what President Obama is going through is because he is a black man in the White House,” Fugard said.

The resentment against President Obama was predictable, but this war on women, and a crude one at that, is a bit of a surprise.  Rush Limbaugh’s attacks on Georgetown University Law School student Sharon Fluke are no less than sickening and repulsive. To call this young woman a “slut” and a “prostitute” is childish, but one wonders, listening to him, if many Republicans are angry that women, as well as blacks, have gotten just a little bit too much freedom in this country?

Much of this got started, or the hot embers were ignited by, GOP candidate Rick Santorum. He began the tirade that there was and is an attack on religion and religious freedoms being waged by the Obama administration. With deep passion he has argued that secularism is on the rise, the fault of this president and his administration.

To make it possible for women to get contraception is a part of a war on religion and religious freedom, Santorum has said. The waves from his passionate sharing of his beliefs has grown into a tsunami that is revealing just how deep is bigotry against anyone who is not white and male, and, ironically, Protestant (though Santorum is a Catholic) in this country.

In a 2008 speech, Santorum said that “this was a Protestant country and the Protestant ethic, mainstream, mainline Protestantism – and of course we look at the shape of mainline Protestantism in this country and it is a shambles. It is gone from the world of Christianity as I see it.” (italics mine.)

Santorum moved from attacking the president and his “phony theology” to observations on women and their place in society.  In an interview with John King on February 8 of this year, Santorum said that he had “concerns” about women in combat, saying that in such a situation “it could be a very compromising situation where people naturally may do things that may not be in the interest of the mission because of other types of emotions that are involved.”

His apparent disapproval of the freedom of women to “choose” came through loud and clear when he said in 2006 that he didn’t think contraception works, and said “I think it’s harmful to women. I think it’s harmful to our society to have a society that says sex outside of marriage is something that should be encouraged or tolerated.”

Only, apparently, if that sex is engaged in by women…

Santorum is gaining support in his bid for the Republican nomination for president, and there has been no outcry for the voice of Rush Limbaugh to be stilled; this is America, after all, and we have freedoms.

But what is becoming increasingly clear is that a great number of Americans are apparently very resentful that too many people have too much freedom!  Politicians of the past have said in the open, and now I suppose they say it in private, “this is a white man’s country.”  Indeed, when the words of the Constitution were fashioned, saying that all men were created equal, there was no thought or understanding that that phrase included or was intended to include blacks, women, or even all men. The phrase was specifically describing the freedom of white, Protestant, property-owning, men.

It appears that what Conservatives want to conserve is their idea of what America was always intended to be.  They understand that freedom, or premium freedom, was never meant to be for the masses. “We the people” are confused.

What is used as justification of their views, and even of their treatment of some people, is the U.S. Constitution and, alas, God. Those who do not believe as they do are condemned as “secularists.”  Santorum blasted a 1960 speech by fellow Catholic  and then presidential hopeful John F. Kennedy, who said he believed in total separation of church and state.

Kennedy was trying to assuage a nervous  American society about what they might expect if a Catholic got into the White House. Would the pope have the ultimate power? Kennedy’s speech, it seemed, sought to calm their nerves.

But Santorum, trying to conserve an America that was formed by people seeking freedom but which systematically denied freedom to blacks, women, and so many others, blasted Kennedy’s speech and appealed to a yet again nervous America which believes that the wrong person is in the White House and that women have gotten beside themselves, out of line with the divine will.

The word “Christianity” is being thrown around like a hot potato, appealing to the fears of some under the guise of religious righteousness. Being crass and rude to a young woman cannot be in the will of God, who in the Hebrew scriptures decried how badly people treated each other and yet thought they could appease God by pious religious services.  “I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies” God says in the book of Amos (5:21)

It feels like this God would not like what is being done to people, or said about human beings with rights, including women and blacks. Freedom of speech notwithstanding, it seems that God would not approve of Rush Limbaugh’s crude and tasteless comments about a young woman who is seeking to help protect the rights of all women.

In this election cycle, white men are behaving badly, using the Constitution and God to justify their actions and their words. It is very, very sad to watch.

A candid observation …

Gingrich a Grinch

I have held off saying anything for as long as I could. I have been …meditating …on how to talk about …Newt.

You know, as in Gingrich. The now-leading GOP presidential candidate hopeful.

I nearly ran off the road when I heard his comments on the radio – something to the effect that poor kids have no work ethic because they don’t see anyone who works, and that they should become janitors in their schools, or maybe junior janitors.

My first thought was, “How arrogant! Has he been in a poor neighborhood, where parents often work 2-3 jobs, usually minimum wage with no benefits – and still can’t make ends meet? Has he been in poor neighborhoods dominated by slum landlords who charge exorbitant rent for habitats that are one step removed from shanties? Has he been in neighborhoods where there is no local supermarket and where many people cannot afford cars, so children are forced to eat horrible food gotten from the local corner store …which also charges too much?

I would bet not.

But then, I thought along a different line. If the children in poor neighborhoods became the janitors, where would the current janitors work – people who are trying to make a living and provide for their families?

Did he think of that? Would he even think to think of that?

The fact is, Gingrich, like so many white and privileged people, relies on stereotypes and generalizations. He, and others like him, speak on what they assume to be true. The “poor people” of whom he speaks (he and people like Limbaugh, Hannity, Bachmann, Coulter and others) are not even worthy of a personal investigation of why they are where they are, and how difficult it has been to get out and move up in a society which spurns them.

The fact is, many kids seldom see their parents because those parents do have a work ethic and they work their fingers to the bones, at the expense of their families. How many poor kids have come up saying that their parents worked two and three jobs, that their mothers were so tired after working that they would sit at the kitchen table and fall asleep? No, everyone doesn’t have the same work ethic, but some of them do not because they have given up. They have tried and tried to get good employment, to no avail and have stopped trying.

All kinds of people these days, who would not call themselves “poor,” or wouldn’t have called themselves “poor” before now, know what it feels like to try to work and get rejected, over and over. After a while, people stop trying.

Gingrich might be an intellectual, but he’s an insensitive and calloused and prejudiced intellectual who has no business wanting to be president of a country where there are more and more people who do not have work.  A president is supposed to care for everyone, including “the least of these.” Donald Trump defended Gingrich’s statements, and said Barack Obama had not done anything for “people in the ghetto.”

Oh, how the cries of “socialist” would have been even louder had the president put his focus there!

Michelle Bachmann says that “the American people” are gravitating to the views of Hannity, Limbaugh, and people who, I suppose, think like Gingrich. Clearly, “the American people” of whom she speaks are white, privileged Americans who think the poor – primarily black and brown people – are not worthy of time or respect.

Gingrich was out of line. His arrogance is repugnant …and surely, “the American people” would not want such a divisive character to lead this country, the so-called, “land of the free and home of the brave,” poor people included.

A candid observation …

Gingrich a Grinch © 2011 Candid Observations

Good Ol’ Boys Clubs, Challenged

Herman Cain reacted angrily yesterday to the candid disclosure of an encounter he allegedly had with one Sharon Bialek some years ago.

Flanked by her attorney, Gloria Allred, Bialek shared the details of an encounter with a powerful man that to many women, probably sounded quite familiar.

If you missed it, she said she had heard Herman Cain speak at an event; she and he sat next to each other during the dinner portion of that event, and she was impressed with his presence and message. When she lost her job at the National Restaurant Association a short time later, her then-boyfriend suggested she meet with Mr. Cain, who was the president of the NRA at that time.

She said she called Mr. Cain and asked if they could meet, and when he said yes, her boyfriend made a reservation for her at a Washington hotel, the location of the NRA. When she got to the hotel, she found that her room was an extravagant suite, not a “normal” room at all. She said she thought her boyfriend had gotten the room to surprise her. Later that evening, she went to dinner with Mr. Cain, and explained her need for a job and how she wondered if he could help her.

It was after dinner that Ms. Bialek alleges that Mr. Cain put his hand on her leg and moved it toward her genitals, and took her hand and moved it toward his crotch.  Some time in the course of the evening, Mr. Cain had told her it was he who had upgraded her room (he asked her how she liked it). Ms. Bialek said she was surprised that he had done that, but even more surprised when he allegedly touched her in the car.

He stopped immediately, she says, when she protested, but the incident bothered her. Somewhere in the midst of all this, in the midst of her surprise, she asked him why he would do such a thing, and she says he said, “You want a job, don’t you?” She told her boyfriend about it, and one other person, but did not press charges of sexual harassment. Part of the reason was that she was embarrassed, part of the reason is that she wanted to protect her relationship with her boyfriend, and part of the reason was that she was unemployed at the time. The law is concerned with sexual harassment in the workplace.

Herman Cain has come out swinging, after a week of saying he will not discuss the “false allegations” that are being made about him, but as I listened to Ms. Bialek, I thought two things: 1) she has got to be telling the truth because she knows she will be attacked from every direction, and 2) what she described is so much a common story of women in the workplace.

The “good ol’ boys” have gotten away with a lot over the years, and few people have challenged them.  More than once, I have had women tell me of similar encounters they have had with men on their jobs, and they have said nothing because they’ve been threatened. “Tell someone and I’ll get you fired,” I had a couple of women share with me.

Some of the women who have faced this have been high-powered women, on the rise, wanting their ascent not to stop, and others have been in far less glamorous situations.  In addition to wanting to save their jobs, the women have been afraid to have their whole sexual history smeared all over the public arena.

Because of their fear, many women have kept their mouths shut, much like many rape victims have done. I have talked with women who have been sexually abused by family members, but stayed quiet because they were threatened, as well as women who have been sexually harassed in their places of work.

Too few women have stepped forward, and so the good ol’ boys clubs have gone on virtually untouched.

Interestingly, the sex scandal at Penn State is blowing up at the same time the Herman Cain situation is getting bigger and bigger. There again, it at least appears that the “boys” of the good ol’ boys clubs have taken care of each other. Why in the world would none of those high ranking college officials go to the police so that the alleged sexual abuse of young boys could have been stopped?

It’s the same mentality. Good ol’ boys sticking together. We saw it in the scandal that rocked the Roman Catholic Church; the priests protected each other. We’ve seen it in the workplace, in churches, everywhere.

Sharon Bialek is a brave one for coming forward. She urged other women to do the same. The only way the tight grip the good ol’ boys have on so much of society, in so many ways, can be broken up is for it to be challenged and exposed.  The good ol’ boys have kept a tight rein on what goes on and what is prohibited in this society and indeed, in the world. They have made it difficult for women, for minorities, for anyone, really, to move as easily in this society as do they. So many in our society are afraid to challenge them, but challenge them we must.

Hopefully, Bialek’s experiences will be able to pass the truth test, and hopefully, Bialek herself will be able to handle the onslaught of criticism and disparaging remarks that are sure to come her way. Rush Limbaugh has already started, and there will be more. Ms. Bialek pleaded with Mr. Cain to be honest with what he has done, and “then move on.” She came not as a disgruntled Liberal, but as a proud Republican.

This isn’t about politics for her. It’s about the character of a man who would be president.

How much better it would have been if Mr. Cain had, from the outset, owned up to the fact that he had been accused of sexual harassment, and that he was sorry for any pain he might have caused. That would have been honorable. Everyone makes mistakes, yes?

But to react as he has, and come out fighting as he is, makes me wonder if he has too much pride to own up to his mistakes.

The good ol’ boys clubs have run roughshod over so many people for so many years. It’s high time that they are challenged with a fury and intensity the likes of which we have not seen before.

That is a candid observation.