Sergio Garcia was supposedly in a joking mood at the European Tour awards dinner Tuesday night (May 21, 2013) in England, when he was asked if he would be inviting Woods to dinner during next month's U.S. Open. "We'll have him 'round every night,'' Garcia said, according to multiple media reports. "We will serve fried chicken.
Sergio claimed he was just joking when he responded to the question. He quickly apologized. Ha Ha Ha For someone whose first language is not English, he picked up the "finer points" of racism quite well. Of course, apologize with an eye on your sponsors (per article). I am waiting for the "Give the guy a break. He is not racist. He is really sorry for what he said and he did not mean anything by saying it." Why else would he use a fried chicken reference if you did not know AND understand its racist connotation? In fact even in this article about his racist remarks, ESPN says "possible racial reference". Possible racial reference?
A Little History…When it was introduced to the American South, fried chicken became a common staple. Later, as the slave trade led to Africans being brought to work on southern plantations, the slaves who became cooks incorporated seasonings and spices that were absent in traditional Scottish cuisine, enriching the flavor. Since most slaves were unable to raise expensive meats, but generally allowed to keep chickens, frying chicken on special occasions continued in the Black communities of the South. It endured the fall of slavery and gradually passed into common use as a general Southern dish. Since fried chicken traveled well in hot weather before refrigeration was commonplace, it gained further favor in the periods of American history when segregation closed off most restaurants to Blacks. Fried chicken has then being used in a racist manner to symbolically draw fried chicken to being poor to being Black.
Sergio called a press conference this morning (May 22, 2013) to further address the issue and apologize and apologize and apologize. Of course, he also apologized to sponsors of the golf tournament where was playing. Money involved. He said it was a response to a joke question. The only thing he did not say is, "I am not racist. Some of my best friends are Black".
Of course, the Sport PR spin …as in the political spin…Apologize and make it appear you really mean it, and the Timid Press will let bygones be bygones and move on. One of THE many problems with racism is Racists always want to move on AFTER they are caught making racist comments.
American Institutional Racism and the American Infrastructure of Racism permeates everything…even sports and athletes from other countries. America has exported its franchise brand of racism all over the world and the response is always to apologize and move on. While you would blame Sergio for HIS racist remarks, Blame America for its Racist brand.
Sergio issued an "unreserved apology" (his words) for his comments made in a joking manner, and he wants to move on. Isn't that convenient?
The Struggle Continues…RLHSR.
"But what about us?
It’s a question of which white folks seem never to tire when discussing subjects like affirmative action, or other diversity initiatives intended to expand opportunity and access for people of color in higher education and the job market.
Whenever these matters are broached, the vast majority of us rush to protest: How dare schools or employers consider race in hiring or admissions. They should be colorblind, we insist, merely admitting or hiring the most qualified! And more to the point, we proclaim, targeting folks of color for opportunities, by definition, means discrimination against us. Such efforts make us the victims, even, on some accounts, treating white people “exactly” like blacks were treated under Jim Crow segregation (1).
So, yes, it remains the case that even when black folks have college degrees they’re nearly twice as likely as comparable whites to be out of work; and Latinos with degrees are about 50 percent more likely than comparable whites to be out of work; and Asian Americans with degrees are about 40 percent more likely than comparable whites to be out of work (2). And yes, even whites who claim to have criminal records are more likely to be hired than equally qualified blacks without records, but still, can anti-white lynchings be far behind?
And yes, blacks and Latinos combined only represent about 13 percent of students at the most selective colleges and universities — the only ones that actually practice any kind of real affirmative action for admissions — and there are twice as many whites admitted to elite schools with less-than-average qualifications as there are people of color so admitted, but still, can any rational person doubt that whites will soon be limited to mere token representation at the nation’s best educational institutions?
That such hand-wringing about so-called reverse discrimination reeks of intellectual mendacity should be obvious by now. Despite years of so-called reverse racism, whites remain atop every indicator of social and economic well-being when compared to the African Americans and Latinos who, it is claimed, are displacing us from our perch: employment data, income, net worth; you name it, and we are the ones in better shape without exception.
Indeed, in some regards the gaps between whites and folks of color have grown in recent years, as with wealth gaps, which have actually tripled since the 1980s, now leaving the typical white family with over 20 times the net worth of the typical black family and 18 times that of the typical Latino family. Even when comparing families of middle-class income and occupational status, whites possess 3-5 times the net worth of middle class blacks, suggesting that even African Americans who have procured good careers and obtained college degrees lag well behind their white counterparts, due in large measure to the inherited disadvantages of past generations, affirmative action efforts notwithstanding.
This is why, despite affirmative action — which may well be eradicated (at least so far as higher ed is concerned) by the Supreme Court within the month — white racial advantage remains a real and persistent phenomena in American life, and one with which fair-minded persons should still be prepared to grapple.
To claim that affirmative action not only disproves white privilege, but indeed suggests its opposite — black and brown privilege — as many have argued to me via email exchanges, is to ignore the entire social context within which affirmative action occurs.
It’s like protesting that sick people are privileged, relative to the healthy, because there are no hospitals for the latter.
It’s like complaining that the poor are privileged, relative to the well-off, because no one sets up soup kitchens to serve the affluent; nor does Habitat for Humanity ever show up to build mansions for the rich.
It’s like insisting that the disabled are privileged because they get bigger bathroom stalls, or because of all those special parking spaces, and that the able-bodied are oppressed because we have to walk a bit further when we go shopping at the mall or for groceries
It’s like complaining that women are privileged and men oppressed because of half-price Ladies Night specials at the local pub, or because of Breast Cancer Awareness wristbands that say “Save the Boobies” — after all, there are no “I love Prostate” wristbands — or because female porn stars and strippers make more than their male counterparts, or because hospitals don’t have paternity wards. Yeah, think about that one for a minute!
It’s like whining about how the LGBT community is privileged and we straight folks oppressed, since, after all, “the gays” have their own parades and bars that cater to their needs. Where’s our parade? Where’s our bar?
It’s like inveighing against the privileges enjoyed by Jews or Muslims, what with that Kosher or Halal certification you can find on grocery items nowadays. Obviously, going out of the way to make sure observant Jews and Muslims know what food is OK for them to eat is nothing less than naked favoritism! After all, where’s the little Jesus cross to let Christians know what food is holy for them?
It’s like rich people, who make millions or even billions (and as such, likely pay a pretty hefty tax bill annually) complaining about how working class folks who earn only $15,000 or so not only don’t pay income taxes, they actually get a refund in the form of the Earned Income Tax Credit! As such, it’s obvious that the working poor are the truly advantaged in society! And this is especially true when you think about all the thrift shops and discount stores that are established to serve them, and those check-cashing outlets and pawn shops! An entire infrastructure just for low-income people. Where are our food stamps? Where’s our government cheese?
For that matter, one might ask (and some, with no sense of irony do), where’s our White Entertainment Television? Because when one is white one has the luxury of ignoring that the entire cable broadcast spectrum represents whiteness: from Donald Trump to Honey Boo-Boo and everything inbetween.
Or, as others insist, where’s our National Association for the Advancement of White People? Because likewise, we don’t have to notice how there are several of these, implicitly, throughout the culture: the Fortune 500, the Chamber of Commerce, or your friendly neighborhood police force among the most obvious.
Or, where’s our White History Month? Which is the kind of imbecilic query that could only emanate from the lips of one who has had the luxury of glibly ignoring that we have several, though they go by the tricky names of May, June, July, and so on, and in which months white people’s historical narratives are given quite a bit more than a momentary consideration.
In other words, when whites critique affirmative action, we typically ignore everything that came before such efforts — and which unjustly skewed the historical balance of power and access in our favor — and even that which continues to favor us now, from funding and other advantages in the schools that mostly serve our children, to preferential treatment in the housing market, to ongoing advantages in employment.
For instance, with black and Latino students far more likely than whites to attend concentrated poverty schools, and with the typical black or Latino student attending school with twice as many low income students as the typical white student, and being twice as likely to be taught by the least experienced teachers and half as likely to be taught by the most experienced, it is more than a bit disingenuous to suggest that it’s black and brown kids receiving “preferential treatment” in education.
With companies filling up to half of their new jobs by way of recommendations made by pre-existing employees — a practice that benefits those persons connected to others already in the pipeline, who will disproportionately be white — and with informal, typically white-dominated networks providing the keys to the best jobs in the modern economy, and with research indicating that employers are more likely to hire people they’d like to “hang out with,” than those who are necessarily the most qualified (which will tend to replicate race and class homogeneity), and with blacks significantly underrepresented in management positions, even and especially in work settings that include large numbers of blacks, it stands as uniquely craven to complain about how persons of color are receiving unjust head starts in the labor market. That even middle class blacks, relatively protected by their economic and educational status from overt mistreatment, still suffer disparate rates of job dismissal (even when their performance indicators are comparable to those of whites), lower mobility when compared to similar whites, and regular harassment on the job, makes such arguments all the more repugnant.
With people of color significantly more likely than whites to be steered to subprime mortgage loans — even when their credit scores and incomes are comparable to (or better) than their white counterparts — makes it downright indecent to argue that it’s whites who are getting the shaft and people of color who are reaping the benefits of some iniquitous system of preference.
And yet, that’s what one can hear, over and again, from the very white Americans who regularly bemoan what they call the “victim” mentality of black folks and other “racial minorities.”
As in, “If I were just black, I’d have gotten into Harvard!” Or, “If my buddy John had been named Juan, he’d have gotten that construction contract,” which arguments brazenly ignore that whites still far outnumber blacks at places like Harvard and white owned businesses continue to receive over 90 percent of government contracts (3). Oh, and such idiocy also, and conveniently, ignores one more not-so-minor matter: namely, that if one had been black, or if one’s friend had been Latino, one’s life and that of said friend would have been completely different, and not only on that day that you or he applied to Harvard or for that particular contract, but every day before that.
Which is to say that long before you sent in your college application, you’d have been a black child, born in a country where black children are twice as likely to die in infancy as the white child you actually were.
You’d have been a black teenager, in a country where black teens who are actively seeking jobs have unemployment rates that regularly hover around 40 percent, and are 2.5 times the rates for white teens, like the one you actually were (4).
You’d have been living in a black family, whose parent or parents would have been twice as likely to be out of work and three times as likely to be poor as the white parents you actually grew up with.
And if you had committed a crime as a youth, you’d have been six times as likely to be incarcerated for that crime than your actual white self, even if the crime details and your prior record were no different than they had been in your actual, white world.
In short, claims of white victimhood only make sense if one has so imbibed a mentality of entitlement that one actually believes whites earned all that extra stuff, that we earned our better health, or the relative wealth status we merely inherited from our families (which inherited it from theirs), or preferential treatment from cops. Which is to say, it’s the kind of thing that can only make sense to those lacking the most basic capacity for critical thought, and anything remotely resembling that which we might call, perspective.
Sadly, this is precisely the mentality adopted by several members — and now perhaps the majority — of the Supreme Court: persons who lash out at any effort to balance out opportunities for people of color, as evidence of unlawful and unfair preference, but ignore the persistent and institutionalized advantages of whiteness, referring dismissively to such things as “societal discrimination,” against which they claim to be powerless.
Such is the face of white privilege in the twenty-first century: a systematized reality so normalized and taken for granted by the majority of whites, that any deviation from its totalizing script becomes cause for alarm in the eyes of millions.
That such a weak, hypersensitive and over-indulged group as this should wield such power would be funny were it not so dangerous.
(1) Yes, I realize that there are more sophisticated arguments against affirmative action than this kind of white victimhood argument, and I have responded to them elsewhere. First and foremost in my 2005 book, Affirmative Action: Racial Preference in Black and White, but also in numerous essays. To wit, here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here.
(2) See Table 6, pages 14-16. Note, the white unemployment figures are artificially inflated because roughly 93 percent of Latinos are racially classified as white in Labor Department data, as noted on page 1 of the report. Because Latinos and Latinas tend to have higher unemployment rates than non-Hispanic whites, including them in the white totals skews white unemployment upwards at higher levels of education. While Latino/as with little education actually tend to fare slightly better than comparable whites (likely because they are hired specifically by employers who seek to take advantage of their limited language skills or immigration vulnerability, and thus, inability to complain about bad work conditions, low pay, and no benefits), among Latinos with high school diplomas or college educations, employment status is worse than for comparable whites. Once Latino males are extracted from the white totals for persons with college degrees, Latino unemployment for degree holders is 44 percent above that for whites, while unemployment rates for Latina females with degrees is 59 percent above the rate for comparable white women. For Asian Americans, in the aggregate, unemployment among degree holders is 37 percent higher than for comparable whites, including a whopping 68 percent higher for Asian American women, relative to white women with degrees.
(3) According to the data in this article, black- and Latino-owned small businesses received about $15 billion, combined, in government contract dollars in 2011, out of approximately $433 billion in overall contracts granted by the government that year, for a percentage of only about 3.5 percent of all contract dollars. This more comprehensive analysis indicates a total of about $36 billion overall in contract dollars for minority-owned businesses that year (including other persons of color, not black or Hispanic), out of $537 billion in overall contract dollars, for a percentage of about 6 percent. Either way, it is safe to say that over 90 percent of contract dollars continue to flow to businesses owned by whites.
(4) According to Table 3 (pp 7-9) of this report, black teen unemployment rates in 2011 averaged 41.2 percent, compared to 19.5 percent for white teens, once Latinos classified in the data as white are removed from the white totals. It was important to remove Latinos from the white totals, because Latino teens are about 60 percent more likely than white teens to be unemployed, thus, keeping them in the larger category of whites (and as noted on page 1 of the report, about 93 percent of Latinos are found there), artificially inflates the “real white” unemployment numbers, whether for teens or adults. For an explanation of how I extracted Latinos from the data, here and in note 2 above, write for details at email@example.com. The procedure isn’t complicated but is too lengthy to explain here."
As only Tim Wise can say it….and As Always…The Struggle Continues…RLHSR.
From YDR.com by Dawn Cutaia
"Being white is pretty awesome. Don't get me wrong, if I were a white male instead of a white woman, my life would be even more awesome, but being a white female is still powerful.
Being white is an unearned privilege; I did absolutely nothing to get the white skin I have. Yet my white skin gives me power and credibility. I am not just a member of the club; I am a member of THE club.
And the best part is that I don't have to show a membership card; the color of my skin is my membership card, which is very convenient. It frees up my hands to send text messages and post to Facebook on my iPhone 5.
Why is being white so powerful? It probably has something to do with the whole slavery thing. Yeah, I said it. Slavery. Why can't blacks just get over it, right? I mean it was such a long time ago. And the minute that slavery was declared unconstitutional, former slave owners and former slaves had a great big party, where the former slaves invited their former owners over for dinner in the houses that the former slaves owned. Oh wait, that doesn't sound right . . .
Whites don't like to talk about slavery because we think blacks blame us for it. Unless you actually owned slaves, and I'm pretty sure that you haven't, no one is blaming you for slavery. However, if you turn away from the racism that still exists today as a result of slavery; if you promote that racism; if you argue that it does not exist, you should absolutely feel guilty, because you are guilty — not just of hurting your fellow citizens, but hurting our entire country.
You don't have to be a member of the KKK to be racist, but not being a member of the KKK does not mean you aren't racist. Slavery may have been outlawed 150 years ago, but the Civil Rights Movement was less than 50 years ago. Fifty years ago blacks were still sitting in the back of the bus, drinking out of separate water fountains, being sprayed by fire hoses for peacefully protesting, and living in extreme poverty with substandard education.
To this day, there are still a lot of negative stereotypes about blacks. I can't think of any negative stereotypes about white people, other than we can't dance. When you are the people in power, negative stereotypes roll right off your back. But for the people who are not in power, even stereotypes we think are harmless can have terrible consequences.
Ever hear whites make fun of black names? Names like Lakeesha and Jashon? Did you know that when potential employers are presented with two identical resumes, one with a white name and one with a black name, the white person gets the interview, hands down. Not so harmless now. And when "undercover" black and white employees interview for jobs, when they both have the exact same qualifications, guess who almost always gets called back? Yeah, that's right, the whites.
When I say "welfare queen," do you think of a poor white woman living in Appalachia outside a trailer, with a bunch of dirty kids in diapers running around, or do you think of Lakeesha, sitting on her welfare throne with buckets of food stamps all around her? Yet, there are twice as many whites on welfare as blacks and that's not including the white CEOs of corporate America.
Do you ever find yourself having conversations with other whites and when you talk about blacks you whisper the word "blacks"? If you are not ashamed of what you are saying, why are you whispering?
If I told you I was representing an alleged drug dealer, in your mind is he black or white? (He's white by the way.)
Our criminal justice system is rife with racism. Just one example: In 2011 the City of Philadelphia settled a lawsuit with the ACLU because of the police department's "stop and frisk" policy. Seventy-six percent of the people stopped in Philadelphia without reasonable suspicion were minorities and 85 percent of the people frisked were minorities, including lawyers, doctors and other professionals.
The New York City Police Department just reached a settlement with the ACLU over the same issue. Have you ever been stopped on the sidewalk by the police and asked for ID? Never? How many times have you been frisked by the police? None? The last time you got a ticket, did the police ask you for "consent" to search your car? I didn't think so.
I recently read a transcript where a black witness to a crime told a detective that the suspect "didn't just kill someone; he killed a white person!" As if that was worse. That's the power of white skin. It's 2013 and minorities are still afraid of us.
I had a guy in my office today. Nice guy. 45 years old. White. Well educated. We were talking about race. He denied he was racist and admitted that although he used the "n" word when he was younger, he doesn't use it anymore. He then turned to look down my hallway towards my waiting room, laughed, and in a half whisper said: "There aren't any here, are there? I'm not going to get shot?"
Seconds earlier he was swearing up and down that he was not racist and now he was concerned that those "n" word people were in my waiting room with guns. He didn't even realize what he was saying. And that is the problem — not that he is racist; but that he does not even know it.
And that's the problem with white America — we are racist and we don't even know it."
Thank you Dawn.
It is good to know that racism is discussed and no longer hidden. The Struggle Continues…RLHSR.
From The Nation by Liliana Segura
This past March, a Philadelphia man named Christopher Knafelc jumped onto the train tracks at a local SEPTA station to save a man who had fallen off the platform and into harm’s way. His story quickly became a tale of heroism and redemption; Knafelc, it turned out, was a “recovering drug addict with a long rap sheet,” according to the Associated Press, a man who “often wondered if he was a good person.”
The answer was yes: Knafelc’s act of bravery meant he could hold “his head a little higher, viewing the good deed he did, and the praise that followed, as another sign that he is on the right path in life,” according to the AP. "It did help reinforce that I'm a good person," Knafelc said. "I questioned that a lot because of my colorful past."
This past included charges of theft, a DUI and child endangerment. But the media narrative was clear and feel-good. Knafelc’s act of heroism had redeemed him, proved his worth to society. "It's amazing,” a transit worker told reporters. “This incident may be the start of really good things for him."
Knafelc, who is white, is not nearly as well known as Wesley Autrey, the African American “Subway Samaritan" who in 2007 achieved instant fame after he saved a 20-year-old film student on the train tracks in Harlem. Unlike Knafelc’s case, in which no train was pulling into the station, Autrey saw the lights of an oncoming train and nevertheless, threw himself over the man, lying in a drainage ditch as train cars passed over them. It was an extraordinary act of courage; Autrey was showered with praise and gifts; Donald Trump presented him with a check for $10,000 and saluted him in the pages of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People issue. He was even an honored guest at George W. Bush’s 2007 State of the Union Address, where he received a standing ovation.
It probably didn’t hurt that before he was hailed as a hero in such official quarters, Autrey was a “modest, hardworking construction worker” and Navy veteran who strived to be a parent to his kids, unlike his own father. “The world looks at black men as deadbeat dads,” he told New York Magazine. “But that’s not me.”
But what if it was? What if it turned out that Autrey had a rap sheet like Knafelc’s? Worse, what if it turned out that he had a history of violence and had done time in prison for hurting people? Would “convicted felon” have trumped “hero”? Would he still have been welcome at the White House?
It took just one day for Charles Ramsey, the black man who helped save Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michele Knight from a ten-year-long living nightmare in a Cleveland home, to go from hero to “hero” in the press. “America is embracing the hardworking dishwasher,” the New York Daily News reported on May 8, calling him "America's hero neighbor." The next day, the Daily News headline read “Cleveland ‘hero’ and Internet celeb Charles Ramsey has a criminal past.”
The new narrative turned on revelations that Ramsey is “a convicted felon whose rap sheet includes three separate domestic violence convictions that resulted in prison terms,” as the Smoking Gun revealed on Wednesday afternoon. As word spread and people considered the unfortunate “irony” that this man had committed violence against his wife, adulation turned toward disappointment, hand-wringing and bemusement. (“Perhaps, one might think, it’s unwise for a brand to want such a man as a spokesperson,” Time’s Brad Tuttle wrote in a post about a previously discussed McDonalds endorsement.) Blog posts were hastily updated; others were written to maintain that he was still a hero, regardless of his past. “The fact that a convicted abuser intervened to stop abuse is a good thing, not a scandal,” Joan Walsh argued at Salon, while also leaving open the possibility that “more details may yet emerge to complicate Ramsey’s character.” (It would be “shameful,” she wrote, if it turned out that he knew anything about his neighbor’s crimes and stayed silent.) At Poynter, the episode was a lesson in “the dangers in lionizing someone at the heart of a breaking news event too soon.”
Behind the backlash against Ramsey was right-wing Cleveland radio host Dave Ramos, who first posted links to his Cuyahoga County criminal profile under the headline: “Hometown ‘Hero’: This Story Stinks.” Ramos insisted that the public was “being fooled” by Ramsey’s portrayal in the press and was determined to set things straight. (Never mind that he had no confirmation that the record he posted actually belonged to the correct Charles Ramsey—that was just a lucky guess.)
To Ramos, it was apparently intolerable that a man that looked, talked and acted like Ramsey could possibly be hailed as a hero. He didn’t bother trying to conceal his racism, citing dubious “sources” who told him that “Ramsey appeared on a local TV station accompanied by an entourage of more than a dozen men, would not budge from the TV station's green room, and had to be escorted off of the station's property by police.” In other words, he is not only criminal at the core, he is threatening and generally obnoxious. “He couldn't freaking speak English!” Ramos said on Twitter, after boasting that he was the first to break the story about his criminal record.
But few seemed as eager to publicly revel in the exposure of Ramsey’s past, even commenters on Ramos's website. Comments at the Smoking Gun were largely angry and indignant, demanding to know why anyone felt compelled to dig up dirt on a man whose actions were admirable, regardless. On Facebook, the Daily News reported, Ramsey’s ex-wife posted old photos of her former husband, writing, “Ok so for the record ppl do change and you shouldn’t hold the past against someone. The (main) thing is Charles Ramsey did a good deed and those girls are safe.”
Speaking on his own behalf, Ramsey told TMZ that his past actions “helped me become the man I am today and are the reason why I try to help the community as much as I can,” words that one blogger dismissed as a “valiant effort to put a positive spin on some despicable actions.” It makes sense that such a response might come off as self-serving; too many are willing to forgive domestic violence if it is committed by somebody who people want to love and admire—see celebrities and sports heroes—and the blunt tools offered by the criminal justice system have proven woefully ineffective in addressing domestic violence.
But the question of whether Ramsey is or is not a hero—a term he himself rejects—is ultimately not the most helpful or important, especially when we recall that all those we like to call “heroes” are, in fact, flawed human beings, even if those flaws are never exposed. As a fixed category, the notion of a “hero” applies to very few people in the American imagination—mainly to those who put on a military uniform—and a man like Charles Ramsey fits much more neatly in the public mind into a different fixed category—not just “felon,” with all its permanent implications, but “criminal,” a label automatically assigned to black men. In particular, the notion that black men who have committed violent acts cannot change and should be forever defined by that violence is what fuels our harshest prison policies. If there’s any value in the current debate over Ramsey's “checkered past,” to me, it is that so many people are daring to suggest that a man who went to prison for a series of violent crimes can be more than that; that people are more than the worst things they have ever done.
Nowhere is this concept more absent than in our criminal justice system, which has lengthened sentences, foreclosed on parole, and made pardons a near impossibility. Although the problem of mass incarceration has entered the public consciousness, thanks largely to the excesses of the drug war, the harshest penalties for violent crime (or those labeled "violent" due to any number of aggravating factors) continue to go unquestioned. For anyone who takes prison reform seriously, or is aware of the aging prisoner population, this should be a problem. "The reality is that close to half of the national growth in imprisonment since 1980 consists of increased punishment for 'violent' crime," Berkelely law professor Jonathan Simon has written. "If we are to cut into that growth, and just as importantly, permanently reduce the public appetite to punish drug users and other non-violent prisoners, we need to revisit the policies that send so many to prison for so long."
But even criminal justice reformers, for understandable reasons, tend to shy from taking on punishments for people who commit violent acts. Legislation across the country is aimed primarily at “nonviolent offenders.” Anti-death penalty activists focus largely on innocent people sent to death row—while widely pushing the next-most-punitive penalty, life-without-parole, for the guilty. Even behind bars, prisoners serving life-without-parole have less programming and are less eligible for compassionate release. When it comes to those who commit violent crimes, our most punitive instincts still rein.
Race has everything to do with this. Fear of black criminality continues to drive permanent punishment, based on the idea that African Americans are less capable of rehabilitation or redemption. So African American kids are given life sentences at a staggeringly disproportionate rate. So Assata Shakur finds herself on the FBI’s Most Wanted List thirty years after the crime for which she was accused, based on the claim that she represents a threat to public safety. So Texas prisoner Duane Buck faces execution date after execution date in part because a state psychologist told jurors that, as a black man, his potential for “future dangerousness” was higher. I recently sat in a Memphis courtroom as a white prosecutor pointed at a black man who he hoped to send back to death row, imploring jurors not to be fooled by the “well-dressed, well-groomed” man before him. “Not quite the same as he was back then!” he cried, triumphantly, pointing at a sixteen-year-old mugshot of the defendant, confident that the dark image of him in a hoodie would look threatening enough to scare the jury. You can put a black man in a suit, in other words, but underneath it he is still a criminal.
Some criminals, like some heroes, are allowed to be complex, as we are reminded in the wake of mass shootings committed by white men who are immediately scrutinized for signs of mental illness. Confusion and debate over what Ramsey really is—criminal or hero (or jolly internet meme)—shows how little complexity we afford people like him. It may have taken an extraordinary action, the saving of three white girls, to make him worthy of people's collective empathy—and it's certainly likely that if his criminal record included, say, first-degree murder that this empathy would largely evaporate. But if we more broadly applied the logic of legions who have lept to his defense as a changed man, if we started thinking that more people might be worthy of a second chance, we might start to change the conversation around prisons and sentencing.
Every day behind prison walls, inmates—some elderly, some caring for them—wonder, like Christopher Knafelc, if they, too, are "good" people; if they, too might have contributed something to the world if they had been given the chance to try again. Charles Ramsey did. Can we dare to imagine that there are many others like him?
There are many others. They are not seen because their skin color gets in the way! The Struggle Continues…RLHSR.
The George W. Bush Presidential Library opened to the public on Wednesday in Dallas, Texas. And since then, we’ve been learning a lot more about what is inside. Which gives me an opportunity to make note of one particular exhibit, in the form of a letter.
Dear President George W. Bush,
It’s me, Melissa.
Congratulations on the opening of your library. Now maybe you’ll go inside one.
You have long held that history will be the ultimate judge of the decisions you made while president. But with the Decision Points Theater exhibit at your library, it looks like you are planning to give history a little nudge in a direction you find favorable.
You are still pushing decade old so-called “intelligence” to justify your decision point to invade Iraq. But I’m sorry, Mr. President: There simply were no weapons of mass destruction. That was an ”Oops! My bad!” that cost $2 trillion and nearly 4,500 U.S. lives.
But as a resident of post-Katrina New Orleans, the one decision point that really has me fired up is how your library represents the choices you faced in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. According to your exhibit the main problem you faced was how to restore law and order. The big issue that visitors are asked to resolve, is whether or not you should have invoked the Insurrection Act to control the looters.
Oh, yeah? Looting was the big problem?
As much as 80% of the city was flooded. Nearly a thousand Louisiana residents died, many in their own homes, drowned by storm surges that breached inadequate federal levees. Many thousands more were trapped in the Superdome and Convention Center for days without food, medicine, water, electricity, or working bathrooms.
And you were trying to figure out whether or not to quell an insurrection? These people were Americans, Mr. President. Homeowners, taxpayers, voters. Your people and you were vacationing while they drowned. The decision you should have been making, sir, wasn’t on how to quell them. It was how to save them.
But hey, even if you completely bungled the immediate response, you did come on down to New Orleans after the storm to give a rousing speech in Jackson Square. You promised to uncover the facts, to rebuild the infrastructure, and to make sure that New Orleans emerged from the storm with egalitarian resiliency.
Well, Dubya—I am not sure if you have bothered to even take a flyover of the Lower Ninth Ward recently, but let’s be clear: equality of recovery is not the best description for the realities in New Orleans.
Not that I’m complaining. One thing is for sure, the people of my city didn’t wait around for you to keep your promise. They formed community organizations, reopened schools, lobbied for more resources, litigated for greater fairness, and rebuilt their lives one sheet of dry wall at a time. But the struggle continues. Nearly eight years after you were considering that law and order decision, our city has the second highest rate of homelessness in the nation.
As for you eight years later? Well, here’s what you recently told CNN’s John King:
“You learn that life doesn’t end after you’re president…In other words, you’re going a hundred miles an hour and, and, in my case, we woke up in Crawford and now it’s going zero. And so the challenge is how to live life to its fullest.”
Well, that’s cool, Mr. President. I am glad that you are slowing down, catching your breath and finding a way to live life to the fullest. In the meantime, tens of thousands of New Orleanians are still trying to find a way home, still displaced by the policies of your administration, still reeling from the failures of your decisions.
But hey, “Heckuva job, Dubya.”
Once again, Melissa does an excellent job putting issues in their proper perspective. Insensitivity was such an obvious part of the Bush Administration AND a just as obvious mission of the Bush library is to show how compassionate the Bush Administration was. It is called revisionist history and W is trying real hard. Unless this country suffers a deep and abiding case of amnesia, Bush and his minion's shallow attempt at changing history will not succeed.
Great Job Melissa!
The Struggle Continues…RLHSR.
(excerpted from Jim Hightower and the National Memo)
Big doings in Big D — the George W. Bush Presidential Library is open for business!
What a piece of work it is: a $250 million, 226,000-square-foot edifice on 23 acres in Dallas. His brick-and-limestone structure is certainly imposing, but once inside, you quickly see that it’s a $250 million can of whitewash. Of course, all ex-presidents want libraries that show their good side, and Bush himself was organizer-in-chief of this temple to … well, to himself. What’s most striking is not what’s in it, but what’s not.
For example, where’s that “Mission Accomplished” banner that he used as a political prop in May 2003, when he strutted out so fatuously on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln wearing a flight suit to pretend like he had won the Iraq War? And how about a video loop of him finally showing up in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, cluelessly praising his infamously incompetent emergency management honcho with the now notorious shoutout: “Heck of a job, Brownie.”
Also, while there are 35 featured videos, a replica of W’s oval office, narrated presentations by top Bush officials and even statues of the family dogs — where’s Cheney? Shouldn’t there be an animated exhibit of the perpetually snarling veep in his dark chamber, scheming to shred our Constitution and set up an imperial presidency (or, more accurately, an imperial vice presidency)?
Another essential element of George’s tenure that goes unportrayed could be called “The Dead Garden of Compassionate Conservatism.” It could feature such mementos as him cutting health care funding for veterans, closing of the college gates for 1.5 million low-income students and turning a blind eye as eight million more Americans tumbled down the economic ladder into poverty on his watch.
Then there’s a shady exhibit that deserves more exposure. It’s the list of 160 donors of over a million dollars to the center, with each name chiseled into bricks that form what should be called “The Brick Wall of Special Interest Government.” Among those chiseled in are AT&T, casino baron Sheldon Adelson, Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News empire, several billionaire funders of right-wing politics, the founder of GoDaddy.com, and even the royal rulers of Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.
The 160 names are by no means all of the corporate and fat-cat donors — many more gave, but shyly requested that their involvement be kept from the public. Present law allows such unlimited, secret donations, even while a president is in office, still wielding the power to do favors for donors. Bill Clinton used this undercover loophole, and George W. happily chose the same dark path.
Today (May 1), the doors to Bush’s pharaonic “Presidential Center” open to the public, allowing us commoners to dig deep into the shallowness of his achievements. The enormous building itself sets the tone: sharp edges, high brick walls and the welcoming feel of a fortress. Yet the ex-prez insists that it’s a place for public contemplation of his legacy, “a place to lay out facts,” he says.
How ironic is that? After all, the Bush-Cheney regime was infamous for its disregard of facts, as well as its hiding, twisting and manufacturing of facts to fool people. From going to war over Iraq’s nonexistent weapons of mass destruction to its plan to gut and privatize Social Security — facts were whatever Bush, Cheney, Rummy, Rove and Condi imperiously declared them to be.
More ironic is the centerpiece of the library’s attempt to whitewash George’s eight awful years: an interactive exhibit called “Decision Points Theater.” And theater it is, portraying George heroically as “The Decider.” Visitors to this rigged exhibit can use touchscreens to see Bush in virtual action, pondering as he receives contradictory advice on whether to save the poor people of New Orleans, bail out Wall Street bankers, rush into Iraq, etc.
The whole show is meant to make you feel sympathy for him, then you’re asked to “vote” on whether he did the right thing. Again, irony: We the People got no vote on these issues back when it would’ve mattered.
There are many, many Bush quotes in this pantheon, but the one that best characterizes him and should be engraved above the entrance to his sparkling new center is this, from August 2002: “I’m the commander. See, I do not need to explain why I say things. That’s the interesting thing about being the president. Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don’t feel like I owe anybody an explanation.”
It is shameful there is not a Truth Squad to monitor Revisionist History which the tax payers in part have to underwrite, and especially when it is a presidential library. National Disgrace has its place in history; so the Bush Presidential Library …like 8 years of a Bush Administration …is not an exception.
Hopefully parents of school children, who will take them to the library expecting a glimpse into history, will tell them, "No baby, the information in the library is not true." Sad and pathetic commentary of a president trying to rewrite history in this age of technological wizardry.
The Struggle Continues…RLHSR.
THe Struggle Continues…RLHSR.
I am posting this for some of those Black intellectual scholars and snobs…and you know who you are…who think you have all the answers. Like I told you earlier, there is no such thing as Black racism. Like I also told you, when you look in the mirror and do not see a Black face looking back at you, you are in real trouble. Plus, Some of YOU are in real trouble anyway because YOU do not understand Blackness. And again…Black is a state of mind.
BTW…I really do not care if you do not agree with Dr. Michael Eric Dyson. I agree with him.
The Struggle Continues…RLHSR.
The Civil Rights Movement is a history painted on the human canvas of courage. North Carolina has become basically ground zero of the new frontline for the Civil Rights Movement. How ironic since it was also ground zero for the sit-in movement.
In our preoccupied media culture, we are reminded of our smug insistence that race is no longer a factor in our society. Yet, the fight today is to make sure civil rights gains and accomplishments are not lost to a right wing element in this country who would not understand civil rights through any glasses. This country will not survive with those who think they are "passing laws to take back their country." How brazenly arrogant!
Correspondingly, I constantly hear criticisms about black history month and the often asked “Why do we need a Black history month? Why not a white history month? Black history month functions to highlight the often overlooked accomplishments of Blacks. You cannot teach American history without teaching Black history. You cannot teach Black history without teaching the history of the Civil Rights movement, the ongoing fight against racism, and the true stories of those who put themselves in harm’s way fighting for freedom and human dignity and respect.
We have an obligation to tell our story repeatedly until today’s generation understand it, embrace it, and internalize it. It appears we will go back to the streets…and sooner rather than later.
The Struggle Continues…RLHSR.
These are excerpted comments by Denise Oliver Velez which appeared on the Daily Kos web site…
"There are few people in the world who do not know the face of Desmond Tutu. When Nelson Mandela appointed him to chair the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, he became the public face of an extraordinary process that few people could have even dreamed of or imagined during the long hard years of battling the brutal Apartheid regime.
The road to reconciliation was not easy."
"The lack of racial harmony in the country between 1960 and 1994 prompted the first democratically elected government of Nelson Mandela to institute, in 1995, a commission of inquiry based in Cape Town (known as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission or TRC) into all apartheid-related crimes with the objective of mending hitherto unbridgeable racial disparities. Thus, when South Africa emerged from the nightmare of apartheid, the country launched a new struggle to deal with a history of pervasive human rights violations while at the same time working to unite and rebuild the nation."
"Some Black people wanted harsh penalties for the perpetrators of apartheid crimes. Others thought that investigation of past wrongs would jeopardize the fragile new democracy, while others simply wanted to forget the past. In the end, the new government opted to establish a commission to document what happened during South Africa's most troubled times, and offer limited amnesty to those who confessed their complicity. The TRC was based on the Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act, No 34 of 1995. It resembled a legal body that was bestowed with the authority to hear and try cases, resolve disputes, or make certain legal decisions. The policy of reconciliation embodied in the inquiry was predicated on the fundamental principle that "To forgive is not just to be altruistic, [but] it is the best form of self-interest."
"A year after the attainment of majority rule, Archbishop Desmond Tutu was appointed chairman of the TRC. Its jurisdiction included providing support and reparation to victims and their families, and compiling a full and objective record of the effects of apartheid on South African society. Anybody who was a victim of violence was welcome to give his or her testimony before this newly constituted body. Perpetrators of violence could also give evidence and request amnesty from prosecution."
"The Government envisioned the TRC as a mechanism that would help deal with the evils of apartheid. In the words of the former Minister of Justice, Dullah Omar, the commission was "… a necessary exercise to enable South Africans to come to terms with their past on a morally accepted basis and to advance the cause of reconciliation." The application of the system of apartheid had led to the escalation of conflict in the country which resulted in violence and human rights abuses. No section of society escaped these abuses, but, to the South African government's credit, it was recognised that "to err is human but to forgive is divine."
For the past three weeks, I have been writing about national apologies, and attempts at reconciliation in countries where a minority has been harmed, historically, and where they are still suffering the depredations of systemic inequities and racism. We stand at a cross-roads here in the United States. We are moving into a future, where one day very soon, those people we now classify as "minorities" (a word I don't like) will become the majority population. South Africa is an example of the majority working on healing its grief, pain and suffering and learning to co-exist with those who had been the ruling minority. No process is perfect, and South Africa still has its problems, but for me, South Africa has been a powerful example of human potential for good, even in the midst of so much ugliness that we see around us."
Every body can make an effort toward truth and reconciliation except these "As Yet United States of America". The Struggle Continues…RLHSR.