Sunday, July 1, 2018

The Problem with Whiteness

Must one first batter their ears,
that they may learn to hear with their eyes?
Must one clatter like kettledrums and penitential preachers?
Or do they only believe the stammerer?
- Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra, Prologue 5

The true credo of the white race is we have everything, and if you try to take any of it from us we will kill you. This is the essential meaning of whiteness. As the white race turns on itself in an age of diminishing resources it is in the vital interest of the white underclass to understand what its elites and its empire are actually about. These lies, James Baldwin warned, will ultimately have fatal consequences for America.
There are days, this is one of them, when you wonder what your role is in this country and what your future is in it,” Baldwin said. “How precisely you’re going to reconcile yourself to your situation here and how you are going to communicate to the vast, heedless, unthinking, cruel white majority that you are here. I’m terrified at the moral apathy—the death of the heart—which is happening in my country. These people have deluded themselves for so long that they really don’t think I’m human.[1]

 “I have reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block toward freedom is not the White citizen’s councilor or the Klu Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to order than justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension, to a positive peace, which is the presence of justice; who constantly says, ‘I agree with you with the goals that you seek, but can’t agree with your methods of direct action.”
- Martin Luther King Jr., “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” 1963

The judiciary as an institution has a history of using its power to rule in favor of those interests deemed to be most important to the white community. A room full of diverse minds and opinions can make better decisions than a room full of people who all think alike or who all share the same interests. A wise person of color who has lived a life that more likely has been negatively impacted by the predominately white judiciary should more likely be able to reach better decisions (subjunctive tense). Unfortunately, the current judiciary remains more than 90 per cent white; it may take while to build up a legal system and a body of law that actually reflects the benefits of our diversity.

“When we [Americans] talk about the rule of law, we assume that we’re talking about a law that promotes freedom, that promotes justice, that promotes equality.”
—U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, Interview with ABA President William Neukom (2007)

“White supremacy is a tradition that must be named and a religion that must be renounced. When this work has not been done, those who live in whiteness become oppressive, whether intentional or not.” 

Peggy McIntosh has identified some of the daily effects of white privilege in her life, conditions which “attach somewhat more to skin-color privilege than to class, religion, ethnic status, or geographic location”. In her view most of these conditions are not what her African American co-workers, friends, and acquaintances can count on.
I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.
If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area which I can afford and in which I would want to live.
I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me.
I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.
I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.
When I am told about our national heritage or about “civilization,” I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.
I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.
If I want to, I can be pretty sure of finding a publisher for this piece on white privilege.
I can go into a music shop and count on finding the music of my race represented, into a supermarket and find the staple foods that fit with my cultural traditions, into a hairdresser’s shop and find someone who can cut my hair.
Whether I use checks, credit cards or cash, I can count on my skin color not to work against the appearance of financial reliability.
I can arrange to protect my children most of the time from people who might not like them.
I can swear, or dress in second-hand clothes, or not answer letters, without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty, or the illiteracy of my race.
I can speak in public to a powerful male group without putting my race on trial.
I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race.
I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.
I can remain oblivious of the language and customs of persons of color who constitute the world’s majority without feeling in my culture any penalty for such oblivion.
I can criticize our government and talk about how much I fear its policies and behavior without being seen as a cultural outsider.
I can be pretty sure that if I ask to talk to “the person in charge,” I will be facing a person of my race.
If a traffic cop pulls me over or if the IRS audits my tax return, I can be sure I haven’t been singled out because of my race.
I can easily buy posters, postcards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys, and children’s magazines featuring people of my race.
I can go home from most meetings of organizations I belong to feeling somewhat tied in, rather than isolated, out-of-place, outnumbered, unheard, held at a distance, or feared.
I can take a job with an affirmative action employer without having co-workers on the job suspect that I got it because of race.
I can choose public accommodations without fearing that people of my race cannot get in or will be mistreated in the places I have chosen.
I can be sure that if I need legal or medical help, my race will not work against me.
If my day, week, or year is going badly, I need not ask of each negative episode or situation whether it has racial overtones.
I can choose blemish cover or bandages in “flesh” color and have them more less match my skin.[2]

Sunday, June 17, 2018

A response to Trumps' zero-tolerance immigration policy

Below is a response to the recent zero-tolerance immigration policy which I have sent to congressional and Senate leaders and news outlets.

Image result for zero-tolerance immigration policy

 There is no question in the most basic ethical thinker sees a big problem with Trump’s zero-tolerance policy rolled out last month by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary K. Nielsen, and that it is a stark example of the totalitarian style injustice. Sessions, a so-called “christian”, poorly (ignorantly?) cited St Paul in one of the most misunderstood sections of his letter to the Romans, missing the [ancient] contextual meaning conveyed regarding the “law of love”.  It’s a shame we have fundamentalist behavior in the Trump administration (e.g., based in fear, rigid interpretation, the need of the law of one’s country to lend legitimacy to one’s religious beliefs, belief (misinformed) trumps action—this all makes it easy for those in authority to abuse). 

What Session and others are unable to see (having no ears?) is, if indeed they (Trump, Sessions, etc,) are part of an “authority . . . established by God”, then they have a responsibility to be “servant[s] of God for your [our] good”.  Obviously this is not the case, since the concept of Eastern “good” includes the spirit of hospitality and the universal care of  “the poor, the fatherless and widows” contained in the ethical teaching of Judeo-Christian tradition. In this case, they are allowing the opposite, separating children from their parents. They should recall the classic parable of the “Good Samaritan.”

It is also important to note (if one is to use/follow St. Paul’s teaching in the letter to the Romans) the whole book pivots on chanter 12, verses 1-2.  It may do us all well to recall that the time of St. Paul’s writing was a critical time (eschatological time, meaning justice needs restored). So when the civic and governing authorities go against one’s Christian, religious, or otherwise social ethic and conscience, history teaches us to have public discussion, be informed, and if necessary, take action that seeks to fulfill the law of love using the “weapons of light.”

If anything, St. Paul’s letter puts the government on notice! Furthermore, since Trump has been in office, it would seem that the US is becoming demoted in terms of the lens of scriptural reasoning. They should beware.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Clemency of Black Men: Abnormalizing the Normal

“We’re still dealing with slavery in the form of mass incarceration. 
We’re not on a plantation but in a prison.” 
- Fulton Leroy Washington

F. L. Washington, Emancipation Proclamation 2014

Fulton Washington’s story highlights a "normal" in American society, the incarceration of black fathers, a derivative of slavery of the black man.  Here I simply provide a window into the media of a man whose life sentenced was transferred as part of President B. Obama's Clemency Initiative of 2014. Under this new initiative the DOJ invited petitions for commutation of sentence from nonviolent offenders who, among other criteria, likely would have received substantially lower sentences if convicted of the same offenses today. As of January 19, 2017, the President granted commutation of sentence to a total of 1,715 individuals.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Law without Science is Injustice in a Society of Unreflected Anxiety

[For] Justice must always question itself, just as society can exist only by means of the work it does on itself and on its institutions. - Michel Foucault, in Liberation (1991)

The following is an example of poor and hollow "research" by the legal system documented by The New York Times in "The 'Frightening' Myth about Sex Offenders".

The modern legal framework of harsh standing laws targeting sex-offenders (sex-offender registry and other matters imposed of sex-offenders) is justified on an erroneous recidivism rate ("frightening and high" cited by the Supreme Court) that is twenty times greater than the current plethora of peer and evidenced-based research.

This examples provokes the question: what other legal decisions and laws are decided on public perceptions of fear and pop, pseudo-science and remain in great disparity with the current truth--the empirical, scientific, actuarial truth?

Val Jonas, a Florida civil rights attorney, who appears in the New York Times Op-Doc video, details the false and misleading information upon which the US Supreme Court based landmark decisions about sex-offender punishment. Her question, "What kind of measures do you take to secure yourself against these risks and at what cost to your society and your values as a society?"

My Disclaimer: This brief example is designed to challenge weak minds and weak society, the kind of "sense certainty" that drives fear and anxiety and feeds public perceptions, absent reason that is capable of approaching the complexity of an important issue at hand. In this example, the subject (law and society) do not in their development of laws seem to really know the object (the sex-offender) via real science.

“Distrust everyone in whom the impulse to punish is powerful!” - Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra,  2.29 .

The disparity in this example is a difference between
 - The criminal act being punished and the criminal identity being punished
 - Punishment occurs at one concentrated point (justice with the offering of reform--empowering tretment) and punishment that happens in multiple nodes (unending and shaming)

Let us have compassion for those under chastisement. Alas, who are we ourselves? Who am I and who are you? Whence do we come and is it quite certain that we did nothing before we were born? This earth is not without some resemblance to a gaol [jail]. Who knows but that man is a victim of divine justice? Look closely at life. It is so constituted that one senses punishment everywhere.”
- Victor Hugo,  Les Misérables,  4.7.1 (1862)

Saturday, February 17, 2018

A litany of the 'BS' against the Perpetrators: Republicans and NRA

Follow the Yellow in “How Have Your Members Of Congress Voted On Gun Bills?”

This is Virginia; go to article link below for your state. 

Monday, January 15, 2018

James Baldwin Speaks on this Great Day

J Baldwin and M L King
I have been reading James Baldwin during the last several weeks, reading Nobody Knows my Name and The Fire Next time.  Since the 60’s Baldwin has been the most recognizable African-American writer in the U.S. and the de facto spokesperson and leading literary voice for the Civil Right Movement. Baldwin was a complex person who has and continues to challenge the individual to know oneself. In her 1963 thesis, Eliza Young summarized,
[T]o find and to know oneself whether on a personal or social or religious level is not simply a problem among Negroes (though they so drastically need it), but a problem for white Americans and to an extent for Europeans.[1]  
This prophetic message is heard in “Down at the Cross” when Baldwin wrote,
To accept one’s past—one’s history . . . is learning to use it. An invented past can never be used; it cracks and crumbles under the pressures of life like clay in a season of drought. How can the American Negro’s past be used? [I add the white person too] The unprecedented price demanded . . . is the transcendence of the realities of color, of nations, and of altars.[2]
Received from reading Baldwin are his deepest insights as a writer and a black man of his day--his  unique, awareness of the psyche, the cultural challenges with integration, the "great American illusion", and the ultimate challenge and need of human beings for self-examination where there is a . . .
. . . collision between's one's image of oneself and what one actually is is always very painful and there are two things you can do about it, you can meet the collision head-on and try and become what you really are or you can retreat and try to remain what you thought you were, which is a fantasy, in which you will certainly perish. [Moreover,] I didn’t meet anyone in the world who didn’t suffer from the very same affliction that all the people I have fled from suffered from and that was that they didn’t know who they were.[3]
For me and we on this great day, recall the cause and dream of Martin Luther King, and allow James Baldwin spur us on to tackle the ultimate human challenge.
Life is tragic simply because the earth turns and the sun inexorably rises and sets, and one day, for each of us, the sun will go down for the last, last time. Perhaps the whole root of our trouble, the human trouble, is that we will sacrifice all the beauty of our lives, will imprison ourselves in totems, taboos, crosses, blood sacrifices, steeples, mosques, races, armies, flags, nations, in order to deny the fact of death, which is the only fact we have. It seems to me that one ought to rejoice in the fact of death—ought to decide, indeed, to earn one’s death by confronting with passion the conundrum of life. One is responsible to life: It is the small beacon in that terrifying darkness from which we come and to which we shall return. One must negotiate this as nobly as possible, for the sake of those who are coming after us. But white Americans do not believe in death, and this is why the darkness of my skin so intimidates them.[4]

[1] Eliza Marcella Young, “The Search for Identity in the Works of James Baldwin”, MA Thesis, Atlanta University, 1967, 53.
[2] James Baldwin: Collected Essays Ed. Toni Morrison. “Down at the Cross” of The Fire Next Time. New York: The Library of America, 1998, 333.
[3] _________, Nobody Knows my Name (first published in 1954) Paperback, Vintage, 1992.
[4] Collected Essays, 339. 

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Beholden by Forces and Shapes that Form a Life

I am grateful for a growing circle of influences within the inner river of life which include narrative, poetry, theories, schemas and manners of learning and organizing knowledge such as religious,
Möbius strip
science and philosophical readings—material broadening my vision to more elusive territory while calling me to learn, challenging my current orientation with respect to awareness, assumptions—love, hope . . .

Psalm 5

Lord of dimensions and the dimensionless,
Wave and particle, all and none,

Who lets us measure the wounded atom,
Who lets us doubt all measurement,

When in this world we betray you
Let us be faithful in another.

Mark Jarman, “Five Psalms” from To the Green Man. Copyright © 2004