Archive for the ‘race relations’ Category

Is This Guy a Bigot, a Patriot, a Knucklehead, or Just a Brother With an Opinion?

Monday, April 5th, 2010

posted by Sam Richards

Nothing About the Census is Easy

Monday, March 29th, 2010

posted by Sam Richards

Amazing how people are confused about racial and ethnic categories and don’t understand the meaning about certain categories and words. Everyone is offended. “I’m offended…dammit!” Enough already. Here’s the issue from the perspective of the Census people. There are lots of older black Americans who call themselves “negro” and will be confused if that term is not on the Census. People writing the Census are not idiots; they’ve done an incredible amount of preparation for these questions and no matter what they do, there will be confusion. They know this.

On the other hand, there are lots of people who understand that when the term was used as a descriptor for black Americans, it was when black Americans were disparaged and hated–and so the term is somewhat derogatory when used today.

But many older black people assume that they are “negroes” in the eyes of the government and will look for THAT term on the Census. If it’s not there, they’ll be confused and not mark anything. We know this; the Census people know this. Unfortunately, the people who are offended don’t realize this and assume that the Census people who wrote the question are idiots. Wait until they find out that millions of dollars went into testing that survey instrument…

The White Minorities

Sunday, March 28th, 2010

Posted by Sam Richards

So globalization is bringing about some profound changes as the United States makes the final turn onto the home stretch toward a truly multicultural society. We’ve long predicted that white people will become a minority group by mid century (around 2050), but this is the first real marker on that journey–their children are soon to be in minority status.

It doesn’t really matter, mind you, and I’m sure that most people reading this are wondering why it’s being reported on at all. So what is the big deal? Do you feel some sort of way about this? White people…do you feel even a twinge of concern, as though you’ll be forgotten and soon holding the short end of the stick? People of color…do you feel a tiny bit emboldened at the thought that one day people like you will be holding most of the levers of control? From within the dialogue about race and ethnic relations, this is a major issue and one that will surely reflect and change how we get on with one another down the road. Transformation happens…

Read the article: Births to Minorities Are Approaching Majority in U.S.

Those Dolls Say Alot About Who We Are

Friday, March 26th, 2010

posted by Sam Richards

So I’m curious about what you all thought of that video about the dolls. What do you make of how people in class answered the question about how and why this happens? Here it is again. That segment begins around 3:20 if you want to watch it again.

This Is Getting to Be Too Much

Friday, March 5th, 2010

Posted by Sam Richards

Really, this is getting out of hand and needs to stop. Not sure how or why so many people have taken it upon themselves to be such rat heads. But silly actions seem to build upon other silly actions and soon enough there is a mess to clean up. And then when the black and brown people jump into the mix, it really get’s complicated. I love how one or two people become the spokespeople for an entire group, as you’ll see in the video below. That’s very much a dead end to any conversation and dialogue.

Here’s an article that pretty well sums up what has been happening out in California: “California Campus Sees Uneasy Race Relations”

Are Whites the Only People Willing to Humiliate Themselves?

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

Posted by Sam Richards

Frankly, it’s odd that in this world where most of us want to be more multicultural than we are that we don’t see lots of race/culture mixing on a show such as this. Maybe it happens on other shows…I certainly don’t know. But that it doesn’t happen on this one is odd. I wonder if this particular show caters to an slightly older (read: set in their ethnocentric ways) crowd of viewers.




Why Is the Conversation Always About Black and White People?

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

posted by Laurie Mulvey

Any thoughts on this? Seems to me to be a question that comes up in just about every race dialogue group that I have ever facilitated–especially if the group has some “brown” participants.

Avatar and the White Man’s Burden

Monday, February 1st, 2010

posted by Sam Richards

Admittedly I have not seen the film. The last time I visited a movie theater was in 2005. Before that it was sometime in the early 1990s. I just don’t get out much. And while Avatar does seem like the kind of film that ought to be experienced on the big screen, it’s highly unlikely that that is where I’ll see it given my track record.

Nonetheless, reading this op-ed by David Brooks makes me a bit curious about the movie. Not sure why, really, as it sounds a lot like just another film from a long list of other films that I was neither drawn to, nor do I feel somehow deprived as a result of not seeing. But Brooks makes some serious accusations about a film that is being widely and universally viewed that it does make me curious about this persistent theme that just won’t go away — about how it is up to white people to save people from disastrous fates that might befall them.

I supposed one could readily argue that Brooks is reading far too much into the film. But these conscious and subconscious themes that drive popular cultures have a way of landing in us and shape our minds and hearts and just because you didn’t draw his conclusions from the film does not mean that he’s not dead on. In fact, if you’ve grown up in this culture and you haven’t not critically restructured your thinking about gender and race and culture and imperialism, then it’s highly unlikely that you would come to his conclusions. It doesn’t make him “correct” or you “wrong”–but I’d give his ideas time to gestate.

Here’s what Brooks had to say: The Messiah Complex


I Guess It Pays to Learn a Bit About Other People

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

posted by Sam Richards

US Airways Express Flight 3079, bound for Kentucky, landed in Philadelphia after an attendant reported a passenger who was praying and wearing tefillin.

US Airways Express Flight 3079, bound for Kentucky, landed in Philadelphia after an attendant reported a passenger who was praying and wearing tefillin.

Strange how there is so much going on in the world that is boringly normal for one group and totally off-the-hook bizzare for another. While I am undoubtedly in the group of people in the U.S. that could be labelled “more aware” of others and their cultures, I would be quick to admit that there are things going on around me, cultural practices if you will, that I don’t understand and cannot make sense of.

So here is this quirky story about a young Jewish man who made the “mistake” of praying and wearing tefillin while flying on an airplane. Most of you don’t know what “teffilin” is–and why would you if you’re not Jewish?  Hmm… Actually, why would you if you’re not Jewish and familiar with a wide range of Jewish religious practices?

What’s interesting about this misadventure in flying and cultural interpretation is how the Jewish families (and other Jews who were interviewed) reacted to it–they were very nonchalant and understanding.  “Are you kidding,” you can almost hear them say.  “Have you seen someone praying with tefillin?”  It’s a very rational response to what could otherwise be seen as a mistake made by a rather provincial and unworldly airline employee.

Read the article from the New York Times: “A Flight Is Diverted By a Prayer Seen As Ominous”

Racism Looks Pretty Mild on This Side of the Atlantic

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

posted by Sam Richards

This video about the prevalence of racism in the world of European soccer should get some conversation going. In comparison to the racism that exists here in the United States, the actions by these sports fans is extreme and vile — like stuff we’d have witnessed here a hundred years ago. And if these sorts of shenanigans happened in our professional sports stadiums, all manner of actions would be taken to stop them. But on that “enlightened” continent of Europe, for one reason or another they continue and are, to be sure, rather common place in many stadiums. (That said, I am certain that most fans do not support the barbarians clamoring at the turnstyles.)

As you watch the video, keep in mind a couple of things. First, while the video depicts events that are four years old, very little (if anything at all) has changed. European football organizations have taken the initiative to put a stop to the actions of fans, but they’ve not made much headway. Second, this is less about race and more about culture and the perceived threats related to immigration and the growing numbers of “dark skinned” peoples from southern countries, especially those of sub-Sarahan Africa. Europe is in the middle of an unprecedented cultural transformation stemming from widening immigration flows and (white) people are afraid they’re losing their hold on their cultures. This does not excuse their actions and thinking, but it should clarify it a bit and it must be considered in order to understand the causes and consequences of the behavior.

The video is very unnerving, to say the least, but I’m sure it will lead you to pause and reflect on just how far we have come in dealing with our own racism.

The Solution to the Race Dilemma

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

posted by Sam Richards

Totally amazing!!

Totally amazing!!

I think I’m finally getting my head around a solution the race conundrum. It’s been twenty years of my own indecision and chaotic contemplation and inner struggle to figure out where and how to weigh in.

So recently, for example, I finally figured out where to stand on the issue of gun control and the Second Amendment. Basically I came upon the idea that either we disseminate guns widely so that everyone has one (or two or twenty) or we ban then entirely. It doesn’t seem to really matter which route we take, and we’re sure to keep arguing about the issue for another 200+ years if we don’t get extreme in one direction or the other. But back to the race solution…

Here it is: Just have everyone become white. It seems as though we now have the technology to make that happen and it comes, evidently, in the form of a simple cream that a person can apply before going to bed. We could all become brown, of course. However, the “quick tanning creams” currently on the market seem to make people’s skin more reddish or orange than brown. And white appears to be easier on the sensibilities of so many black and brown people anyway — who deep down seem to have been so affected by white supremacy that they secretly harbor desires for whiteness. Crazy world.

And Sammy Sosa seems to have the skin whitening product that works. It’s all good; it’s all white. It’s all a perfect storm of celebrity sports marketing that can hype us into oneness and togetherness.

The Affirmative Action Headache of the Century

Saturday, November 14th, 2009

posted by Sam Richards

[I just read a few of the earliest responses to this post and not one mentioned the insane number of whacky ways that Brazilians described themselves on a census thirty years ago. It's in the box below the video. Please read through those. Very funny and telling.]

Check out this story about affirmative action and discrimination in Brazil. To quickly summarize it, Brazil is trying to combat centuries of discrimination against Africans and Indians (people indigenous to that country) and one way they’ve done it is through a very aggressive affimative action program in their universities. There still remains some blistering discrimination in Brazil (think Jim Crow in the United States) and so it’s not difficult to make the argument that something needs to be done. But what, exactly?

Keep in mind that there is considerable opposition to this policy. Much of it sounds like opposition faced here in the U.S. — things aren’t that bad so let sleeping dogs lie. CHECK OUT THIS BBC ARTICLE.

So here is the problem. Here are the racial classifications from the 1976 Brazilian Census — all 134 of them. And you thought the U.S. was complicated! Read some of these names. Mind you, these are how people categorized themselves and not the categories that the Brazilian government used to classify its citizens.

Acastanhada (cashewlike tint; caramel colored)
Alva (pure white)
Alva-escura (dark or off-white)
Alverenta (or aliviero, “shadow in the water”)
Alvarinta (tinted or bleached white)
Alva-rosada (or jamote, roseate, white with pink highlights)
Alvinha (bleached; white-washed)
Amarela (yellow)
Amarelada (yellowish)
Amarela-quemada (burnt yellow or ochre)
Amarelosa (yellowed)
Amorenada (tannish)
Avermelhada (reddish, with blood vessels showing through the skin)
Azul (bluish)
Azul-marinho (deep bluish)
Baiano (ebony)
Bem-branca (very white)
Bem-clara (translucent)
Bem-morena (very dusky)
Branca (white)
Branca-avermelhada (peach white)
Branca-melada (honey toned)
Branca-morena (darkish white)
Branca-pálida (pallid)
Branca-queimada (sunburned white)
Branca-sardenta (white with brown spots)
Branca-suja (dirty white)
Branquiça (a white variation)
Branquinha (whitish)
Bronze (bronze)
Bronzeada (bronzed tan)
Bugrezinha-escura (Indian characteristics)
Burro-quanto-foge (“burro running away,” implying racial mixture of unknown origin)
Cabocla (mixture of white, Negro and Indian)
Cabo-Verde (black; Cape Verdean)
Café (coffee)
Café-com-leite (coffee with milk)
Canela (cinnamon)
Canelada (tawny)
Castão (thistle colored)
Castanha (cashew)
Castanha-clara (clear, cashewlike)
Castanha-escura (dark, cashewlike)
Chocolate (chocolate brown)
Clara (light)
Clarinha (very light)
Cobre (copper hued)
Corado (ruddy)
Cor-de-café (tint of coffee)
Cor-de-canela (tint of cinnamon)
Cor-de-cuia (tea colored)
Cor-de-leite (milky)
Cor-de-oro (golden)
Cor-de-rosa (pink)
Cor-firma (“no doubt about it”)
Crioula (little servant or slave; African)
Encerada (waxy)
Enxofrada (pallid yellow; jaundiced)
Esbranquecimento (mostly white)
Escura (dark)
Escurinha (semidark)
Fogoio (florid; flushed)
Galega (see agalegada above)
Galegada (see agalegada above)
Jambo (like a fruit the deep-red color of a blood orange)
Laranja (orange)
Lilás (lily)
Loira (blond hair and white skin)
Loira-clara (pale blond)
Loura (blond)
Lourinha (flaxen)
Malaia (from Malabar)
Marinheira (dark greyish)
Marrom (brown)
Meio-amerela (mid-yellow)
Meio-branca (mid-white)
Meio-morena (mid-tan)
Meio-preta (mid-Negro)
Melada (honey colored)
Mestiça (mixture of white and Indian)
Miscigenação (mixed — literally “miscegenated”)
Mista (mixed)
Morena (tan)
Morena-bem-chegada (very tan)
Morena-bronzeada (bronzed tan)
Morena-canelada (cinnamonlike brunette)
Morena-castanha (cashewlike tan)
Morena clara (light tan)
Morena-cor-de-canela (cinnamon-hued brunette)
Morena-jambo (dark red)
Morenada (mocha)
Morena-escura (dark tan)
Morena-fechada (very dark, almost mulatta)
Morenão (very dusky tan)
Morena-parda (brown-hued tan)
Morena-roxa (purplish-tan)
Morena-ruiva (reddish-tan)
Morena-trigueira (wheat colored)
Moreninha (toffeelike)
Mulatta (mixture of white and Negro)
Mulatinha (lighter-skinned white-Negro)
Negra (negro)
Negrota (Negro with a corpulent vody)
Pálida (pale)
Paraíba (like the color of marupa wood)
Parda (dark brown)
Parda-clara (lighter-skinned person of mixed race)
Polaca (Polish features; prostitute)
Pouco-clara (not very clear)
Pouco-morena (dusky)
Preta (black)
Pretinha (black of a lighter hue)
Puxa-para-branca (more like a white than a mulatta)
Quase-negra (almost Negro)
Queimada (burnt)
Queimada-de-praia (suntanned)
Queimada-de-sol (sunburned)
Regular (regular; nondescript)
Retinta (“layered” dark skin)
Rosa (roseate)
Rosada (high pink)
Rosa-queimada (burnished rose)
Roxa (purplish)
Ruiva (strawberry blond)
Russo (Russian; see also polaca)
Sapecada (burnished red)
Sarará (mulatta with reddish kinky hair, aquiline nose)
Saraúba (or saraiva: like a white meringue)
Tostada (toasted)
Trigueira (wheat colored)
Turva (opaque)
Verde (greenish)
Vermelha (reddish)

Frankly, I’m inclined to think that the reason that Brazilians never had a “race issue” is because people are too confused about their own racial identity to have any thoughts about the matter. Affirmative action is bound to fail, at least without the help of a supercomputer.

How Many Killings Equal One Public Outrage?

Saturday, November 7th, 2009
Diana Nicholson, the mother of Taraha Shenice Nicholson, is comforted during a news conference  in Tarboro, N.C.

Diana Nicholson, the mother of Taraha Shenice Nicholson, is comforted during a news conference in Tarboro, N.C.

posted by Sam Richards

Part of this story is about social class…maybe most of it is. I don’t know and nobody does. Race and class are so intertwined that they’re impossible to disentangle. My raised eyebrow to the fool who says it’s all clear to him or her.

All I know is that when I read this story I cannot even possibly imagine that these events would be silenced if the victims were middle class, and certainly not middle class and white. I really don’t expect the media outlets to cover every negative and sad event from across the land, but I have to wonder how much a life is worth and why some lives are worth more than others.

Read the story and chew on the question that is embedded into that last statement. It’s going to take you a few minutes, but it should keep you thinking. HERE IS THE LINK TO THE STORY.

UPDATE: Perhaps you’ve been following the case of the man in Cleveland who tortured and killed 10-11 women whose bodies were buried or hidden in his house in a poor section of the city. The man is black, as were most (perhaps all) of the women. This case juxtaposes well with the one in North Carolina in that the relatives of the missing Cleveland women all report that the police entirely disregarded their attempts to report someone as a “missing person.” In one case the aunt of a missing woman was (purportedly) told to just sit tight because her niece would return “when all of the drugs were gone.” It seems as though the message is the same: the rape, assault, and disappearance (i.e., murder) of poor and marginalized women is not really a public concern.

The Obama Effect

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

posted by Sam Richards

So one of the great mysteries has been solved, or so it seems. Having a (half) black president and a mostly black first family doesn’t have much of a long term impact on attitudes about race relations. Check out these Gallup poll numbers that just came in at the end of October 2009. (You can click on the graphs to make them larger.)
Be sure to note that these numbers are the same as they were in 1963. Yeah…1963! And in case you want to know what different groups think, here they’ve controlled for ancestry.
The following graph is actually a bit promising. I suppose the numbers have to play out in this way with Obama in the White House. I mean god help us if more, rather than fewer, people think black people have less of a chance to get a job for which they are qualified today than in the past.
These data are interesting because they point to the optimistic accessment of how things are unraveling.
And it appears as though the backlash against the “white man” has come to fruition. Sucks to be white.
Here is how the Gallup folks summarize the results:

Despite the election of the first black president in U.S. history, Americans’ optimism about a solution to the race problem in the U.S. and their views about the prevalence of racism against blacks are not substantially more positive now than they have been in previous years. In fact, optimism about race relations is now almost identical to where it was 46 years ago, when Gallup first asked the question.

Blacks remain significantly more negative than whites about their status in society and about the potential for an eventual solution to the race problem. The data do not suggest that blacks have become disproportionately more positive than whites as a result of Obama’s election as president.

Regulating Love

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

posted by Sam Richards

Arab and Jewish children doing what they naturally do -- play!

Arab and Jewish children doing what they naturally do -- play!

It seems as though there are some people in Israel who don’t like the idea of people taking the dictum “Know thy enemy!” too literally–who have, one might say, taken it to heart.

I’m talking about the story going around the wires of Jewish groups who are patrolling lover hangouts so as to ensure that Jewish women do not get too intimate with Arab men. I’m not sure if they care about Jewish men and Arab women. Probably not; (straight) men seem to be like that; the more women the better. Hmm…

In any case, my guess is that there are Arab groups looking to put an end to those hook-ups. Not sure why THAT story hasn’t made the headlines yet.

I’m struck by all of this because it’s tough to stop love when people live so intimately on such small parcels of land. Having been to Israel and Palestine twice, I can say that most Jews would laugh at the insanity of trying stop the inevitable–and probably a higher percentage than would Arab and Christian Palestinians. And I’m also struck by the irony of such a committee for pureness. I can only imagine what some of these love detectors might say if vigilantes of white people roamed the United States looking for cross cultural love affairs. My guess is they’d have a long list of critical commentaries about the racist backwardness of Americans.

But here you are. Listen for yourself.

Love vs. Justice

Saturday, October 24th, 2009

Beth Humphrey, 30, and her boyfriend, Terence McKay, 32

Beth Humphrey, 30, and her boyfriend, Terence McKay, 32

posted by Sam Richards

Some of you have no doubt heard this story pass through the media outlets. More surprising than the Justice of the Peace being unwilling to give these two a marriage license is that fact that he stands by his decision, as discussed in THIS ARTICLE.

Before you go off on how outrageous this is, I want to remind you that two weeks ago in class I discuss the number of you who would not adopt a child with ancestry other than your own or who would not use the sperm or egg of people with ancestry different from your own. And you might recall that everyone who stated that they were uncomfortable being the head of a mixed ancestry family all said it was because of the children. “The children would have a difficult go of it down the road,” was the sentiment.

So how is this judge any different? Along with “mixed race marriages often end in divorce,” this is what this guy has said (although that particular statment is not in this article). Sounds like we might have to get back to some serious thinking about what constitutes racism and bigotry. If people in SOC 119 can say it, why not the judge? Okay, so you’re actions of not starting mixed ancestry families do not impact someone else’s life, but the idea that we’re protecting those who most need “protection” is still the same. Just a thought worth pondering.

It’s unfortunate that he speaks with a southern accent. In fairness, he says that his definition of “racist” is when you treat black people differently than white people. By not issuing the marriage license he’s actually treating black and white people the same! So I guess he’s not racist. Life is complex…

Really…how is this possible?

Saturday, October 17th, 2009

posted by the Gremlin

After watching this short video of a recent incident of racism in a high school where kids were being openly racist, it seems as though I have discovered why it is that we are all just a little bit racist…. still. Race is an open topic in many places here in America and racism must be seeping into our psyches.

In the video students were openly hating black students and there was literally nothing being done about it This is what made me think “WTF?” the most. I certainly remember there being strict rules about racism back when I was in school. But why not this school, how can these kids run wild degrading everyone that looks a little different than them into rubble? Who is to say that we don’t do the same behind our own eyes?

So why are we all racist…. still? Because parents aren’t educating their kids, or choose not to? The schools aren’t doing much to prevent this behavior either. One administrator admitted that their staff wasn’t properly trained in this area. But how much training do you need to undergo to spot such blatant racism and then to speak up?

If you were among this group of so called “administrators,” what would you do? Would you dial up your own little way to report things to the staff? Or something a more extreme?

And then I encounter this video. Another “WTF?” How about these administrators? What are they thinking. The woman won a case in court, afterall, and so her story, which sounds entirely far-fetched, must be true. How can it be? I guess the inmates really do sometimes take over and run the asylum.

Hate Crimes, Free Speech, and Hypocrisy

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

posted by Mike Jefferson

Brian Milligan with his girlfriend

That’s a photo of Brian Milligan with his girlfriend, Nicola Fletcher. He’s white, she’s African American. Young and in love. Here’s the short version of the story: 

On August 18, Milligan was beaten nearly to death on a Buffalo street by a group of black males because he was dating Fletcher. By all accounts, that’s factual. He’d been threatened many times by various black males for “being in the wrong place” and “being with the wrong girl.” But they were in love…until August 18th when the threats manifested into reality.

Though this story is still developing, it offers an useful opportunity to look at the subject of “hate crimes” in the context of hypocrisy, racism, and free speech/thought.  Given Sam’s definition of racism as “believing that some person or group is superior or inferior than another person or group because of some identifiable physical characteristics that they can not change,”  I think most everyone would agree that this particular crime, and true hate crimes in general, are amongst the most egregious forms of racism.

But what about the hypocrisy surrounding this event?    In my experience, hypocrisy is a foolproof indicator of ignorance and intellectual dishonesty.   And let there be no mistake, there is a great deal of hypocrisy in this incident of a white boyfriend being assaulted for dating his black girlfriend.  I’ll admit that I may have missed some of the details of the case but to my knowledge Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson (nor any other Civil Rights activist, for that matter) have not been to Buffalo to protest this hate crime.  Sharpton doesn’t miss many opportunities to publicly demand justice in hate crime cases.  And to be fair to Sharpton, I haven’t heard  a peep out of any of the race baiters, black or white.

At this point, you probably think I advocate having the Feds roll into town and arrest everybody involved for violation of Federal Hate Crimes law.  You’d be wrong.  Make no mistake, I think the punks that ganged up like a pack of animals to beat one lone guy nearly to death need to be locked up.  Or forced to face a brianmilliganhospitalreal fighter mano-a-mano, but then we’d have to clean up the mess that would be left.  And then they need to be locked up for what they DID (e.g., assault, attempted murder–take your pick) and not WHY they did it or WHAT they thought.

Our constitution actually demands that people be allowed to wallow in their ignorance.  They just can’t act on their ignorance when it adversely affects others.  Let me clarify that. With a few exceptions, you can say and believe and read and write most anything you want. And your thoughts and words can be really, really dumb–like rock dumb. But when your stupidity infringes on the safety of others, as it inevitably will do, like when you decide to blow up a tree stump in your back patio with five sticks of dynamite, then “the man” will come knocking on your door.

Hate crime laws cross the line by attempting an end around “double jeopardy” in criminal cases that are not properly prosecuted the first time.  [Double jeopardy is prosecuting someone twice for the same crime.] They came about because of some missteps of justice in the past where crimes were committed against individuals but the guilty were not brought to justice.   These miscarriages of justice were often attributed to racism.   But instead of doing the hard work of fixing the corrupt judicial systems, the “powers-that-be” decided to exert more federal control over the populace and punish thought rather than deed.

The problem is, if you have an interest in freedom of speech, you might want to recognize that hate crime legislation is just one more step down the slippery slope of constraining this important right.

And so I cry “foul.”

On another note, if black and brown people want to be treated as equals, then why do so many cry “foul” when hate crime laws are applied to them? Is it only white people who hate? Is it only white people who victimize others because of their ancestry? In the case of Brian Milligan, it took nearly two weeks for some prominent members of the black community in Buffalo to stand behind this young man. This occured when a number or preachers excoriated their parishioners for not helping to find the culprits:

“The story [finally] touched a nerve with several members of Buffalo’s African-American community, including a local pastor who leads a predominantly black church in Buffalo. ‘At first, it didn’t affect me the way that it would have if I heard it was a black teen attacked,’ said the Rev. Darius Pridgen, who spent years fighting for civil rights for African-Americans. ‘But after I saw his father on TV pleading with the community to find the assailants, I decided I had to go after the people who beat this kid.’ Pridgen said he felt that the community has turned a collective blind eye to the beating. So he gave a fire-and-brimstone sermon at the True Baptist Church on a Sunday after the attack, appealing to his congregation to help find the culprits. ‘He didn’t deserve to be beaten this way,’ Pridgen recalled saying at the service. ‘If you believe this, put your hands together.’ If it was a black teen, Pridgen said, ‘We would have been protesting with flags and everything else.’” [CNN]

By the way, this is where the hypocrisy enters the story. You either walk for justice for everyone or you don’t walk at all. People know who these attackers are…and I want to ask them what they’d say to the white people whose silence protected white thugs who attacked a black or brown man.

It’s Easy to Forget

Friday, September 25th, 2009

posted by Sam Richards

Clearly slavery is one of those touchy subjects for people in the United States. White people don’t fully understand it’s lasting legacy and often have the idea that after the Civil War ended in 1865, slaves were free to climb on up the mobility ladder as far as they wanted to go. People of color, African Americans in particular, are generally more cognizant of how white supremacy has continued to affect the life paths of the descendants of former slaves. They are much more likely to understand the ways in which black Americans were rarely offered the opportunity to compete fairly for the “prizes” that awaited white Americans at the finish line of the race to embrace the American Dream.

The problem is that with all of this talk of the legacy of slavery we forget that the institution has never ended for nearly thirty million people around the world. And we forget that all of us help to keep these “modern day slaves” in bondage when we purchase goods that they have manufactured. And by “all of us” I do mean to include the living descendants of slaves.

In keeping with my iconoclastic image, I just want to put this out there for people to chew on…

Is President Obama Racist?

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

posted by Bryson Nobles


Probably.  The 2009 definition of racist seems to be:

a person who carelessly says or does anything race-related within earshot of a race member other than their own that at least one person with an active imagination could take exception to, irregardless of the merits of the statement.

So maybe Glenn Beck is right; maybe Obama IS a racist.  But then so is he just by saying it. 

And now so am I. See how that works?  It’s all a bit ridiculous actually.  What is even more ridiculous is Glenn Beck is now popular for his aggressive opinions (while Kanye is crucified – damn, more racism), in the same country that put people in jail for wearing anti-Bush t-shirts just 4 years ago.  But…somehow this is cool (damn, more racism).

Isn’t it also a stretch to call Obama “racist” because of his past, and maybe privately maintained, connection with radical Reverend Wright.  Well, let’s consider this: George Bush is a white guy from Texas, an Ivy League alum, who likes to hunt and comes from a family with a very high social status because of his grandfather’s dealings and his father’s career.  For my money, the odds of him having a “Reverend Wright” in his life, a relationship that he’d feel publicly obliged to denounce if it came into the public arena, is extremely likely. Is that a racist conclusion?  But hey…what are you gonna do?

What’s more interesting is WHY Obama is a being called a racist.  I had an odd suspicion that Obama could be the beginning of the end of racism.  But not like most people think.  I saw Obama’s presidential win as an ethnic “win” for white people.  As my imagination would have it, white intellectuals have never quite been able to overcome the “black people can’t be racist because they don’t have power and authority to oppress or exclude white people” response in the race dialogue.  Enter Obama.  Black, check!  Power and authority, check!  Oppression of republicans in the predominately white Congress and exclusion of tax benefits for the wealthy (whites), double check!!  We have a winner.

Add to that that everything is about race with him, even when it’s not, and the conversation is bound to happen.  I think that it could be a blessing is disguise however because the day we find white people calling black people racist at the same rate the blacks say it about whites, it is probably losing its impact.  There was once power in the exclusive rights to label people racist.  But, as sure as white people abandon the suburbs when black people arrive, so too will black people abandon labeling folks racist for ironically the same reason – they both lose their value.

ACORN nuts for all.

Saturday, September 19th, 2009

posted by Chenjerai Kumanyika

What’s good? This is crazy. DON’T WATCH THIS WHOLE VIDEO (unless you’re hooked on politics like me) but skim through it quickly to get the details on this ACORN investigation. You can get the main idea by watching the first 3:00 minutes and then watch from 5:30 -6:15.

A little background: The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) is a community-based organization in the United States that advocates for low and moderate-income families by working on neighborhood safety, voter registration, health care, affordable housing, and other social issues. They’ve got some problems though because some of their employees are more than happy to engage in shady activity…

Wait!! Before you go off with predictable shock and awe comments at ACORN’s actions-stop. Breathe. Briefly inform yourself about ACORN.

Then consider a couple of things.

1.  Some of the main things that ACORN does are to help people find housing through direct actions and lobbying for fair housing legislation.

2.  According to the Washington Examiner, ACORN received $53 million dollars from federal tax coffers since 1994 (note that most of it goes to housing for poor people – click HERE if you’re interested) That’s a lot of money. And…

3.  Wall street has received over $500 billion dollars in federal aid for to heal their wounds from gaming the housing system.

4.  Private military contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan such as KBR and Blackwater have cost taxpayers billions in excessive, padded billing costs.

So the political media circus is taking full advantage of this. Folks on the right are gleefully holding this up as an example of everything that we fear about the Obama Administration – excessive social programs, corruption, tax payer money going to thieves, and black people. (By the way, ACORN has fired the employees on this video and called the incidents “an attempt at ‘gotcha journalism.’”) Folks on the left are going to try to defend ACORN’s larger purpose without looking like hypocrites. Obama says he has bigger things on his mind. Yeah…like what?

Now go off. I did.

How the Great Beer Summit Failed

Saturday, August 22nd, 2009

If you didn’t hear about the “beer summit” and the events that led to it, then clearly you were not paying attention to the mainstream media during the latter part of the month of July. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., a very famous and well known professor to any regular viewer of PBS television, was arrested on his front porch by a police officer near (or actually on) the Harvard campus. CLICK FOR: summary of events.

We’re not particularly interested in debating who was “right” and “wrong” in this mess, nor whether the arrest was fueled by racial profiling or racism. What is interesting is the follow-up and it’s impact on race relations. So is this it? We give two aggrieved parties a beer and, as Laurie Mulvey says in the video, they agree to disagree and we call it “dialogue”?

Tell us what you think about what she’s saying. Is the event (and the spillover) indicative of our need for racial dialogue and racial healing…or is it merely another case of a small incident getting blown out of proportion by mass media outlets in search of sales?

When Does a Conversation Step Over the Line?

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

How Jewish is Hollywood?

A few weeks ago we discussed African American elites and their privileged place in the socioeconomic hierarchy of the United States? Interesting conversation and one worth having. Here is another…

From the early days of the founding of this country, a belief running through this largely Christian culture has been that Jews are an enemy of the christian churches, will suffer the displeasure of God until they accept Jesus, and in more recent years, are members of a group that is intent on bringing down the United States government. Jewish people, many god fearing Christian Americans assert, and some very powerful ones at that, control both the banking and entertainment sectors of our society.

For those of you who do not know the history, and I’ll assume that this represents most of you, the Christian churches have always had a rather rancorous relationship with Jewish people. In spite of the fact that Jesus lived and died as a Jew, and presumably will still be a Jew when/if he ever returns. In spite of the fact that early followers of Christ who wrote the Christian New Testament all considered themselves to be Jewish throughout their lives (yes, I’m not kidding). Jewish Christians turned against their Jewish brethren and throughout the years painted members of this group as the persecutors and murderers of Jesus–not the Romans. Why this happened is an interesting story, and one that I’ll leave you to explore if you have any inclination to do so.

But the bottom line is that Jewish people have long suffered the wrath of Christians with long (albiet distorted) memories and short tempers…and a predilection to savage and brutal behavior. Martin Luther, for example, perhaps the most important figure in the emergence of Protestantism, wrote the script for Adolph Hitler. “Round up the Jews, the scourge of civilization, and put them in work camps or kill them,” is essentially what he said. (Here’s a summary.)

So it is with this in mind that I’m led to the current posting about the prevalence and power of Jewish moguls in Hollywood. Keep in mind that Hollywood does not determine this culture — even though it certain plays a role in how we see ourselves as a people. To understand my reluctance to post the article one only has to read some of the comments that readers made about it. Some are thoughtful and considered, but all too many demonstrate a near total lack of understanding of a very complex issue. For those in this group, the article merely confirms their anti-Semitic thinking.

So when is it acceptable to open up a “pandora’s box” of bigotry and misinterpretation? A few years back the Jewish Theological Seminary sponsored a coffee table book that described how Hollywood is run by Jewish people. It is called “Entertaining America,” in case you’re interested. Hmm… Check out the article and reflect on the implications.

Race and Advertising — We’re in a New World Now

Sunday, April 12th, 2009

“Race Becomes More Central to TV Advertising”

As a sociologist, I’m always reflecting on cause and effect. So, for example, once the parade is underway, does the horse pull the cart or does the momentum of the cart motivate the horse to keep moving? Did the Civil Rights Movement occur because Americans had altered their views about race? Or did their view points change largely because this movement got underway and led to cultural transformations that they could no longer ignore.

In a similar vein, what role do the mass media and advertising have in the continued alteration of our perceptions about people of different racial and cultural groups? Are media decision-makers telling us that multiculturalism is “hip” and we are now buying the message just like any other message? Or are the thoughts and standards of the public changing such that the magicians of Madison Avenue and Hollywood Blvd. must get on board the multicultural express.

When I see a brochure advertisement for Penn State with a photo of five people from five different cultural groups, there is a side of me that feels cynical, as though someone felt the need to be inclusive of everyone. A likely case of political correctness, I surmise. But at the same time, if I saw the same brochure with students of only one background, I’d be equally cynical and wonder what they were thinking to use such a photo. Like the statue of the children playing on the Hintz Family Alumni Center — who are all white. There’s just something about that statue that does not sit well with me.

And yet…I despise political correctness. And yet…what was the artist thinking? And yet…thankfully the artist didn’t go out of his or her way to find child models who were all ethnoracially different. And yet…why didn’t he or she do this?

It’s quite a “catch-22″–you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

Clearly this article is telling us that we’re on the threshold of a new era of race relations and that it’s bound to be positive for everyone, even as there are sure to be a few bumps in the road as we move forward. What do you think?