Tag Archives: American culture

Calling It What Is

https://youtu.be/-RV0kUChjG8

what is IT? What may start out as early morning ramblings will undoubtably evolve into either something very true or something incredibly pungent.

Look beyond the story that is told. Even the smallest lies can have an alarming impact. History is told by the winners, but it’s the victims who rue the day.

Extremes: you’re either in or out; it’s black or white; either you’ll stand for IT or you’ll fall for anything…

Propaganda!

We are talking but no one is listening. The “fake news” is only real when it’s happening to you. The survivors only survived because they had a choice. But those who didn’t survive could not choose. But some choose to tell the story of the victim because it pushes their agenda. It makes them feel but requires far less sacrifice.

We can either become victims or we victimize. The oppressed or the oppressor. The law of hierarchy. Survival of the fittest. Eat or be eaten. Hunt or be hunted. Who IS Maslow?

Anyway…

Is there no middle ground? No lukewarm?? Must we take a position on EvErY thing?!?

(Breathe)

I can’t breathe because you’re choking me. I can’t live in peace because there’s too much noise. The noise is in my head AND all around me. You too are making noise. That’s why you can’t hear me. I’m right HERE!

Stop. Wait. Go back and click on the link above. And just listen…

Listen to what’s not being said.

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Purged

Did We Just Experience a 30 day Purge?

Several years ago Hollywood created, released, and marketed a film that suggested that a law abiding community could be obtained.  A utopia, if you will, could be created if the government would simply shut down for one day.  There was a catch, however.  In the time that there was no law enforcement, no rescue services, and no safe haven the community will be able to purge itself of all it’s anti-social desires and misdeeds.  This was a fictional account of what could happen.

With marginal results, the film warranted a sequel.  Last summer The Purge II opened in theaters nationwide.  Uncertain whether it was a marketing attempt or a hacker’s wet dream, the entire nation was put on alert that real-life “purges” were going to take place in urban cities like Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York City.  Heads of state scrambled to prevent panic as the danger might be perceived as eminent and debilitating.

As time would tell, there was no mass shut-down of social or emergency services.  There was no “24 hours of lawlessness,” but the months that followed unveiled a paradox of proportional injustice.  Instead of law abiding citizens turning on their government, government officials have idly watched as law enforcement officers have turned on the citizens they swore to protect.  There has been more media-amplified killings by members of the law enforcement community in the last 12 months than ever recorded.  Consequently, an uprising of citizens has provoked more fear and reaction from the cops.

The citizens who have not engaged in a righteous civil rights struggle since the assinations of JFK, MLK, and Malcolm X are learning how to successfully develop a meaningful call to action.  Contemporary leaders have exercised the gamut of rallies, riots, sit-ins, die-ins, boycotts, and social media civil rights campaigns.  To no avail, the problems have been exacerbated right up to and including the mass murders that kicked off the summer of 2015.  What started as call to remember their names has morphed into a hashtagging frenzy that brought about awareness but has done nothing to slow the threat of injustice.  Good cops have been put on the defense, mayors and governors have braced themselves for public backlash, and county prosecutors have changed their tone to condemn the over-zealous murders that take place at routine traffic stops.  Even the president (from the safety of Kenya) has recently condemned the injustices that women, minorities, and the disenfranchised have endured for too long!

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The Constitution that all officials have sworn to uphold has been revisited and challenged since it was penned.  But the Supreme Court has made some rulings in the past year that have inspired ambitious politicians to base their campaigns on soundbites that either support the status quo or promise change through a new world order.  The ignorant, the wealthy, and the oppressors now have a common bond as their presidential candidates spout catch-phrases like: “Let’s return to the good-ol’ days’ or Let’s take America back!”

The citizens who were once considered the minority have become the majority, and the over-privileged panic to maintain their wealth.  Meanwhile an overlooked demographic has been embraced by the top presidential candidates…the ignorant and uneducated.  There aren’t enough wealthy voters to elect a president!  They are relying on the poor and hungry. As an aside, what better way to cultivate a nation of uninformed voters than to condemn the public schools?  A political strategist can see it’s the quickest way to prevent a large number of people from acquiring the skills needed to question authority.  The powerful are plowing seeds of ignorance, sprinkled with precipitation from countless thunderstorms, and reaped for November 2016 consumption.

The poor and hungry…

There are various ways to explain the condition of poverty:  poor in wealth, poor in spirit, and (and this case) poor in authority.  Hunger can be defined as hungry for nourishment, hungry for wealth, hungry for knowledge, hungry for religion, or (for purposes of this analysis) hungry for human rights.  The New Civil Rights movement will embody the poor and the the hungry.  Those who are neither poor nor hungry will resist.

Since the confederate flag came down, the nation’s eyes have been primed for a revolution.  The rationale for keeping a historic symbol of hate up so long was already understood and accepted for 150 years, but the articulation of these sentiments was just too much for our nation to bare.

Starbucks made a preemptive attempt months ago when it suggested we talk about race, but the market could not tolerate such a “controversial” topic.  The masses said, “No, it’s not the time…” as entire movements of “Black Lives Matter” and #ICantBreathe filled the airwaves, web paths, and store fronts.  August will mark the movie release of “Straight Outta Compton” which will certainly shine a spotlight on what becomes of young black youth who embrace their art to change the world.

The past 30 days have been a warning to the world.  We are a nation that was heralded for it’s democracy and liberties. Those who’ve sworn to uphold the Constitution are also the same individuals who apply THEIR discretion of its interpretation.  The Supreme Court is the third branch of our government, but another kind of supreme court exists at every traffic stop.  When our lawmakers do not create “just” laws and our law enforcers prioritize the laws based on their whims, the Supreme Court only gets the cases after it’s too late.  We the people..?

police

Vigilante “hacktivists” are now taking center stage.  The same technology that was designed to make our lives easier has allowed us all to fall victim to cyber-attacks, terrorist threats, and out-and-out fear for our well-being.  We are now witnessing authorities surrendering to the demands of terrorists, hackers, and the media.  The NAACP and the ACLU have revved up their efforts to put anti-police social media and iphone apps into the hands of potential victims everywhere.  Our liberties are being attacked and we are at a loss to defend them.  Question:  Who is the enemy?

Passing

Sometimes is not a good thing to be passing.  Sometimes passing is a liability. Sometimes passing means that everyone is a skeptic.  Suspicious of what is different, what is misrepresented, and what can be trusted?

Once paranoid, now confirmed. It’s not a conspiracy theory if there are facts that support the theory.  It is then that the theory becomes belief.  When enough people embrace the belief, the belief becomes dogma.  What happens then?   There is a shifting social norms.

What are we referring to when we suggest that a person is “passing?”  This does not refer to doing well on a test (although I suppose it could).  In this case, we are not referring to the act of merely moving by something.  “Passing” means to move freely between cultures.  A chameleon passes as whatever can be easily overlooked in whichever environments it can adapt.  Being able to adapt is a valuable asset.  Adaptation lends itself to survival.  But passing can be even more valuable.  Passing enhances an individual’s ability to stealthily move with ease. It’s more than survival.  It enhances opportunity.  To do so is a skill.  To do it naturally is an advantage.  To do so artificially suggest privilege.  To do so artificially means that an authority permits the passage.  Of course, those who oppose the authority resent anyone who is granted privilege. In other words if you can pass, you will either be praised or resented.  If you’re going to pass, do it with style. Do it with effectiveness.  Do it in a way that others can benefit too.   


Having an understanding of what “passing” is helps us understand how it works.  Anytime you can identify a resource, you now can decide how you can use it.  This essay intends to make a few suggestions on how to benefit from someone else’s advantage or privilege.  Better yet, why not embrace this resource to improve our situation collectively.  But even that requires collaboration and cooperation.

Not everyone who passes is working for the common good. Passing embodies risks that not everyone is willing to share.  And sometimes the benefits are not worth it.

Let’s talk about race.  Typically someone who “passes” is an individual who assimilates with one ethnicity but looks like a member of another race.  As a black man who looks Latino, very few are certain of my ethnicity.  Blacks often ask me.  Whites usually wonder.  Hispanics usually wait for me to speak.  But to non-Americans it’s a non-issue.  My loftiness and genuine arrogance is a dead give-away.  I’m humble enough to be non-threatening, yet confident enough to be welcomed.  I don’t believe that I’m an asset to either race until someone else recognizes my ability to pass.  Instead,  I am a novelty; which is weird because folks like me are no longer an anomaly.  There are plenty of mixed-heritage or “biracial” folks within our culture. My white father left me no legacy.  My perception of “privilege” is antiquated.   My humility masks any prospect of advantage.  But my most important characteristic is the desire to be helpful.

I believe that if someone is blessed with a talent, they should use that talent to do something positive.  Although passing is neither a talent nor a privilege, politeness and good manners are cultivated.   I was blessed to have two parents who loved each other so much that they created a biracial son.  They raised me to be polite, courteous, and considerate.  I’m a helper.  I thrive on doing something positive.  My reward is when my efforts are appreciated.  But my actions are based on morals and ethics rather than correcting an injustice.  It saddens me that I can’t right the wrongs!

There is so much social unrest and civil injustice that individuals can not reverse the trend.   But someone who can pass in between ethnic groups can gain an understanding that can be shared and explained.  What we lack is empathy.  Passing may be a path to empathy.  Because we as a nation are looking more and more alike; because our circumstances are becoming more and more similar, passing is less and less relevant.   But as we search for common ground, there are forces dead-set on separating us.

It’s important to be transparent.  Passing suggests a hint of deception. There’s always the resentment for the “spy”. Therefore it’s also important to maintain a level of dignity.  There was a time when an outsider could be shunned, ostracized, or even lynched for associating with the wrong ethnic group.  In that era, passing was a great risk!   But in contemporary social climates, it’s never been more important to clarify one’s position.  Misconceptions have a uncanny way of ending professional relationships and even castrating an individual’s ability to maintain an ounce of credibility.  The distinction between a racist and a conservative is blurred from time to time;  as is the monachre  of a “freedom fighter” and a liberal.  Passing does not escape these insinuations.  Passing amplifies the distrust.

Everyone wants their fair share. Everyone wants to ensure that they are treated right (even if fair treatment comes at the risk of treating someone else unfairly).  Passing doesn’t come close to addressing this problem. For those who pass, it is a means of survival.  Those who can pass can glean from both bowls of fruit.  They can’t get a full serving from each, but might be able to pinch a scrap from either bowl.  This too is unfair in the eyes of those who can’t get any at all.   How long will it be before the “passers” are considered an ethnic group all their own?  If not for the ability for every one of us to learn this craft, the “haves” and the ” have nots” would be divided once again.

My Student Claims That They’re Racists

How could I dispute his claim. I too have walked that road. It wasn’t pleasant. Instead of argue with him, I embraced his claim. I shared my story. I encouraged him to prove them wrong. I explained that we have a responsibility to ourselves to reject their projection. We have a responsibility to ourselves to succeed in spite of their prediction. They made the rules. We will fight their rules. We will claim what is ours! We will rule instead.

It is likely that by the end of this story, we will coexist. But not until there is a shift in power. Not until we have made the same mistake (unfortunately). And not until we know the responsibility of carrying society. Not until they’ve experienced our pain. My hope is that it will not take four hundred years for us to recognize that the burden of power has a price tag far too high. That power will corrupt us too (absolutely). Are we no wiser? Can we not learn from their mistake? Can we learn before it’s too late? We waited too long to cry “racist!” They see it coming and are already prepared to fight for what they perceive is their’s–what was always their’s. “We’re losing!” they claim. Well, who’s winning?tumblr_nd3nn3nGRZ1r7m9kyo1_1280

The face of America is changing.  It’s not at all how we predicted.  We’ve been wrong so many times, and yet we insist on being right this time.  If ignorance is bliss, are we living in a state of constant euphoria?  It’s been suggested that to move ahead, we must look back to where we’ve been.  It’s not a good look.  It’s not getting any better either.  If the future is an arrival on this road we’re traveling now, we may have already experienced the best that society has to offer.  Not to put too fine a point on it, we’re fucked!

Not because of the face of change, but because of what was lost in the struggle.  We fought for the wrong thing.  What we have won is the prize that we currently have–a culture of misfits.  We are free now.  Free from what?  Tyranny?  Free from oppression?  Do we now posses a freedom to act?  To react?  Overact?  Fact?  Fiction?   Where are we???

We are in a new state of consciousness.  Taking a positive position, we have arrived at a place in time that allows us to reflect and predict simultaneously.  We don’t like what we see, and our predictions are vague.  We reserve the right to change our destiny.  Like so many science fiction tales that warn of mankind’s demise if we do not change course, we are on the cusp of greatness.  Our ability to communicate is paramount and on par with our willingness to share ideas   Yes, we are on the cusp of greatness.  And we are about to fall off the edge…

The story of racism has now transformed itself into yet another rant of where we are as a nation.  My student’s claim is no less important than my own realization that a role reversal has occurred.  The teacher has become the student.  He doesn’t need me to educate him on the principals of “us verses them.”  His experience is no more limited than my own.   They ARE us.  The shift occurred, but the condition has not changed.  Human suffering is human suffering.  When we become them, there will still be suffering.  Meanwhile, instead of becoming wiser, we are becoming resilient.

Positively Negative

polarity

Why does it take a catastrophe like this in order for America to hear our cries?” –Danielle Williams, Baltimore protester.

If we knew 30 days ago where we would be today, would we have behaved differently? We’ve witnessed how other regions of our nation respond when public policy does not reflect the needs of the community. “Civil Unrest” is a term coined by those who are tired of the status quo. It is also feigned by those who resist it. Freedom has NEVER been offered without a struggle because those in power are already free to do what they want. We want to act in a positive manner? To do so is to takes action! 

Wait!  Thirty days ago?  We haven’t recovered from the last acts of social injustice!  Statistically there were in excess of 360 police-involved deaths last year alone.  With a wrongful death averaging almost one per day, how has this not become a national epidemic. Far more people are affected by injustice than Ebola and Mad Cow Disease combined!  But disease (no matter how limited or minimal) has everyone concerned because disease knows no ethnic, cultural, class, religious, gender, or age barrier.  There’s the rub!  Anyone can fall victim.  If it can happen to any one of us, we have a united concern!  Division dissolves. This is probably why zombie movies are so popular.

BUT THIS IS NOT SCIENCE FICTION.  THIS IS REALITY!!!

negativity

Only days ago I saw the news clip of Protester Danielle Williams explaining to the media that the frustration of the people is a direct result of a failure to act.  All Americans have witnessed and endured as much as they are willing to tolerate.  We have passed the breaking point (on countless occasions).The American people have tolerated inappropriate behavior since the American Revolution.  The government’s unwillingness to represent, promote, and provide for the needs of the people is what spawned the revolution. The Revolution ended a tyranny that lasted far longer than it should have.  The world will no longer be threatened by an “American Superpower” that fights for freedom abroad.  Instead the world is watching our nation implode.  Once a model of democracy, now a vision of division.  Us verses Them.  What we have here is either a revolution or an evolution.  What’s the difference?  One is violent.  The other is peaceful and natural.  I’d prefer the latter.

My prediction is that on the other side of the protests, the policy changes, and the police retraining;  there will be a shift in power that does not improve the overall status quo.  We, who’ve been mistreated, will rise up and claim a nation (for the first time) that was always ours.  But claiming what belongs to us and protecting what is ours are two very different acts.  When will we be any more protective of human rights?  Will we revise or REcreate systems in a manner that will lift up the rights of ALL living beings?  Or will we simply conclude in the knowledge that at least OUR people will no longer fall victim to brutality? Tough questions.

the decision makers

responsibility

Who makes the decisions?  We do, right?  We have systems that enable us to make decisions either by proxy or personally.  And yet we are a society that increasingly fails to take responsibility for our actions.  Even as you read this you may be thinking, “Not me!”  Yes you!

Me too.

In recent weeks I’ve been reminded to change my course of action by changing my demeanor.  “Take ownership!” “Follow your aspirations”, they say.  “Remain positive for positive energy.”  “Negative thoughts and criticisms lead to negative outcomes.”  They say.  They say.

How about what I say?  I am an educator.  What makes me good at my job is my ability to identify a deficiency and make a plan of action to reduce it.  I would not be good at my job if I did not seek improvement.  Therefore my approach may need to be refined (instead of distinguishing that fine line between being negative and being critical). I too must take responsibility.

As a matter of fact, my most notable trait is my incessant need to be self-critical.  I figure that if I reflect often, identifying my challenges will enable me to improve.  Not necessarily so, but it’s a theory.

Society on the other hand is not so reflective.  When things go wrong, we search beyond for blame.  “Not us?  Must be them?”

When I taught preschool, we used to play this game called “Who Stole the Cookie?” where children would sing along in a group to each other:  “Who stole the cookie from the cookie jar?  Johnny (or the name of another student in the class) stole the cookie from the cookie jar!”  He would say, “Who me?”  And they’d say, “Yes you!”  He’d say, “Couldn’t be,” and they would respond, “then who?!?”   Johnny would call out the name of another student, and the class would say that student’s name.  The song would continue until every student’s name had been called.  Everyone sang along, and everyone eventually took the blame for the mysterious missing cookie.

Everyone took the blame?  Actually no.  No one took the blame.  In this early childhood example, a harmless game demonstrates where we are as a culture.  Everyone gets blamed for something at some point.  The innocent never accept the responsibility.  Why would they?  The guilty merely need to defer the blame to someone else.

Isn’t this precisely the reason that the justice system is not swift?  Amnesty is not justice.  Although prosecutors offer a reduced sentence for a guilty plea, the confident defendant knows that lack of proof requires no integrity. Read that sentence again.

Integrity.  What’s that?  So few people use it that it’s becoming a lost trait.  Outside the confines of a good home, we just don’t adhere to it much any more.  The schools teach it, and it eases the burdens of a classroom; but bad decisions (not “bad children”) are sent to the office less and less frequently. I’ve got an administrator that actually demands that we seek three alternate decisions before we refer ANY matter to him.  Imagine if the real world functioned that way.

Our students don’t take responsibility.  Their parents don’t take responsibility. The teachers don’t take responsibility. The administrators won’t.  The school board doesn’t. The voters who empowered the school board simply figured that the Board knows what they are doing (but they don’t).  As a matter of fact, most school boards are made up of non-educators who want to make a positive change in their community.  Business people, entrepreneurs, civic leaders in the making…

Parents usually direct their energy to the Parent Teacher Organization (PTO), but that lasts about as long as their child’s enrollment.  Who can blame them?  And how long does that responsibility last?

We elect officials to take responsibility for our community problems.  Who takes responsibility beyond an official’s term?  No one.  Is there ever a transfer of responsibility?  The problems do not cease to exist.  The problems don’t expire.  Like week-old milk, the problems that our communities face stink; and if consumed too late, the problem is exponentially larger.

Think about any problem our society is currently facing.  The rapid rate of home foreclosures; the rising costs of gasoline; the in-affordability of college; delinquency in it’s many forms, etc.  These problems are the direct result of problems for which no one took responsibility long ago.

Lack of insight verses failure to acknowledge the warnings.

Boom!  Status Quo.  And yet we still look for someone to blame.  Not us.  Them.  Even when we recognize that the problems that we face today are magnificent, failure to act equals a deferment of a solution.  We leave these dilemmas in the hands of a generation that can no better resolve a problem than it can acknowledge that it exists.   It’s as if THIS is all the kids will ever know, and “where’s the problem in that?”

The rest of us look back at another time when things were better.  Why didn’t we act when things began to get worse?