Magnum Opus Another POV


Here I tread carefully because I must not conflate what Jim has said with others’ views, even though the others may appear, at least to me, to take Jim’s stance to some degree. In this segment I am particularly open to objection and correction. I will try to address Jim directly from time to time so as to separate what he says from what others say. So here goes:

At times, Jim, you seem to be moving toward a more nuanced understanding, as when you say “Unlike before the 1960s more and more opportunities are there even though the path may not be equally easy for all. An increasing number do take advantage but many do not. Again, I think that attitudes are a significant difference…. Does my focus on individual responsibility rather than remedies from government or collective society make me a proponent of the “puritan ethic?” ” The Puritan ethic stresses communal responsibility* along with the individual’s duty to adhere to a moral standard. The Puritan ethic as elaborated in colonial New England had overall influence on our society but it was two-pronged: you had individual responsibility to support, for instance, public education for all, not the disgusting travesty we have now where my granddaughter’s school raised enough money in two weeks for every student to have an I Pad while my son-in-law’s district had to go to a four day week and my son’s district has to give food out to the community rather than the community giving the school I Pads. Puritans would not stand for these latter situations.

You state your view may not be Politically Correct* but we are not worried about that. P.C. was invented by the Right during the culture wars to complain about policies against overt expressions of hate meant to intimidate. Intimidation is wrong and it is not P.C. for a university to make it an offense to call people names since the same holds in public off campus. I can’t just walk up to you out of the blue and call you a name – I am sure there is a better term for it but “disturbing the peace” certainly comes to mind. You were born in 1933, I almost ten years later; if someone walked up to either one of us in line at the store and yelled, “Get out of the way, old man, you’re too slow and I’m in a hurry,” the manager would most certainly, to preserve peace in the store and not upset other customers, ask the idiot to desist. If the idiot persisted, the police would be called. That is how the campus rules started; what the Right did not like was that the harassment of minority students was interfered with because the Right feels like those students do not belong – note the late Justice Scalia’s preference that Black students attend schools where the pace is “slower”.

But let’s look more closely at an issue you raise throughout the exchange, the happenings in Ferguson, MO. Let’s leave Michael Brown out of the equation and look at what the DOJ found in Ferguson: a pattern of raising money through traffic stops, many of which were bogus, abetted by a court system which covertly changed court dates, etc. so as to make it difficult for cited drivers to settle the violation or fight it. These delays then resulted in even larger fines. The city ran on these fines. So far we have avoided looking at this in terms of race, Black and White, Negro and Caucasian, all of those lens you object to. But how then do we explain the fact – not interpretation, not alternate framing, not an obsolete paradigm, and not the result of someone’s world view – but a fact that the burden of these practices fell overwhelmingly on the relatively poor population of Blacks in Ferguson? Just wondering how you explain that without looking through a lens of racial profiling and discrimination.

Where was the oversight to prevent such a distortion of the rule of law? C/conservatives are always preaching about law and order, why does it apply only to protestors or minorities, why not to the Ferguson P.D. and City Council. Those are the things we Liberals do not apprehend. When we point these things out we are called bleeding hearts operating out of a P.C. mentality. This situation in Ferguson was clearly rule BY law, not rule OF law. So where is American Exceptionalism in all this?

My wife just passed on a joke a friend told her. This friend is an 84 year old church lady, quintessential Black church lady, hat and all, she’s so cute. Her joke went like this: a Black man was on a big ship. Someone asked him if he thought he would ever be captain of the ship. “Yeah, when it’s sinking,” he replied. The sister then joked that that is what happened to Obama: he got the country when the Republicans had put it in the tank economically, militarily, educationally, and in our foreign policy. The Onion, a satirical magazine, came out with this headline when Obama was elected: Worst Job In Country Given To Black Man, and from day one the GOP swore to make his job impossible, with Mitch McConnel leading the way. To reiterate, the mindset is beyond my grasp……… or perhaps I should say world view. Had the GOP worked with the Democrats, the country would have rebounded faster. As it is, we are in better shape now than ever, yet the conservatives claim just the opposite. These are facts, measurable facts: GNP, unemployment, insured, deported, executive orders, troops overseas, national debt……… and yet conservatives say every one of them is just the opposite. So are you on the side of fact or of ideology?

Jim says poverty stricken communities need role models and that is our last hope*, yet we have seen how jobs, not just money, although Jim admits money helps*, but real jobs allow a mother and a father, together or not, to support the family. We’ll get to this issue of family structure momentarily. But the investigation of pathology among youth in the South on an Indian Reservation had to be terminated because a casino went in and provided jobs and the pathologies diminished to within normal limits. Other such adventitious occasions have demonstrated the power of a good economy on family structure. That is not to deny the power of role models. Jim asks why such role models are often derided or accused of not respecting the culture and I would refer anyone to Carl Hart’s book. High Price, where he tackles this business about Black kids who do well in school being accused of acting White; Hart pinpoints the problem: it is not kids who succeed in school who are pounced on but those who act like they are better. That is normal in any community. The popular Will Smith sit-com Fresh Prince contrasted the kid from the hood (Smith) with Carlton, his preppy cousin (Alfonso Ribeiro) and his daffy, Valley-Girl sister, Hillary (Karen Parsons). Parsons was interviewed and had a hilarious take on her role. It’s the superior attitude that gets under your skin.

Because it is so long, I am going to place a post to Jim from Laurie Clarcq in a separate segment or document. I don’t mean to poison the well, using the term of logic opposite of its meaning, i.e. set you up by praising the source, but Laurie is summed up as a person and a teacher in one word: wonderful. I urge you to read her post to Jim on what poverty looks like in the classroom. It leaves a sense of desolation and makes one wish that Jim were right, that role models would do the trick.

Before going further, I would like to state some positive things about Jim and this exchange, not to “poison the well” but to balance my own focus on my disagreements with Jim and my distaste for C/conservative positions in general. Outstanding is Jim’s perseverance in staying with this exchange in the face of hostility toward his ideas on my part. I take umbrage with his characterization in a post to his instructor of the positions of others in this group as “divisive, militant, extreme” and so on*. There will be plenty of that in my Parvum Opus but I think Jim may have been taken aback by the vehemence – and vehemence is the word – of our reaction to things he says. Nevertheless, Jim has stated over and over that he wants to understand and to be understood. That is head and shoulders above what most people bring to the table. He stated initially, “You may remember that after our discussion a year or more ago, I started to think about the concept of differing world views to explain how intelligent, educated and experienced individuals can have such different points of view on some subjects. A world view develops over time based on our experience and how we interpret it, our personal world view is a window through which we view the word around us and is rather resistant to change….” Here Jim included most of the elements I have thought go into making a person take one stance or another in a predictable way. We suffer when someone labels us, but I have taken many little thumbnail surveys and always come out very Liberal, consistently so. I find strange someone who doesn’t, as if they reflect on little and have no bedrock values and perspectives. So I think this is an important issue: how we think about things, and Jim has bemoaned the divided state of our body politic and even of the society and culture to some extent. He brought up Kate Smith; my Kate Smith is Aretha Franklin. Why does our society divide over silly matters like singing traditions or hair styles or fashion or dance or language………? The list goes on and on of controversies that often divide along lines consistent with political lines. Jim has been very patient in dealing with my Liberalism and that needs to be acknowledged.

Speaking of fashion, I wonder when they’ll bring the codpiece back.

Here’s how I track the trajectory of Jim’s arguments: policies over the last few decades and in particular over the last ten years (Obama) have resulted in not only no diminution in the poverty rate but a great deal of unfairness and divisiveness in the society. Authority has been compromised and institutions have been undermined. Figures like Obama have sown discord, usually along racial lines, and abetted a sense of victimization and learned helplessness among the poor, especially poor minorities. The chief actors in this process has been the Democratic policies from the War on Poverty on, the civil rights leaders called “race hustlers”, and the universities where radical thought is preeminent and dissenting opinion from the Right is silenced by P.C. policies. In addition, within the Black community a sense of racial entitlement and hostility has resulted in calls for separation from the dominant culture and society and vituperation toward fellow Blacks who do not fall in line with this agenda.

One thing I noted about Jim’s take on this: he resolutely restricts the diagnosis of pathology to poor Blacks; Blacks who are not poor either see pathology among poor Blacks or jump on the bandwagon of racial injustice to promote themselves in some way, e.g. college professors, authors, politicians, etc. So back to this charge of racism that so often hangs over these discussions: nothing in this argues for a racial angle on Jim’s part, it’s all about poor Blacks, particularly inner-city Blacks, trapped in a cycle of poverty. Where it might attract charges of a racist attitude, incorrectly IMHO, is where Jim attributes a lot of the pathology to Black family structure. He follows Moynihan and others in delineating the pernicious effects of what has been called the “culture of poverty”. For Jim, I believe, this gets tied into Black identity.

To some extent, I agree with Jim in that I have often heard African-Americans describe Black culture and Black life in terms of poverty. I think a distinction can and should be made. Lots of people I know personally came up in a Black environment of poverty and took advantage of the changes wrought by the Civil Rights Movement (and Liberal policies) to gain middle class status but maintain their footing in Black culture and society. I referred in my posts and in my blog frequently to the markers of that in my personal experiences.*

And there is Jim’s biggest weak spot and he agrees with that.* His lack of familiarity with the Black community allows him to draw inappropriate conclusions. One example is the so-called Black tables at universities, something trumpeted by foes of Black rights, which in fact, on the ground, was the action of a mere handful of people back in the 70s and was and is irrelevant to anything. Another is the inability on Jim’s part to see over 50 years the changes wrought in the very poor, uneducated congregation of one Black church. From a high school diploma at best 50 years ago to Ed.D.s and Ph.D.s today and from families restricted to slum neighborhoods and poor schools to living wherever they can afford. The stats on Blacks indicate they are the most religious ethnicity in America, so you just are not going to find a lot of these Al Sharpton/Louis Farrakhan followers so beloved of Fox News, and certainly no Black Panthers.

Which brings me to another point of dissension: the reading of protest movements among African-Americans in a way distinct from that of movements among Whites. Among Blacks a fringe group like the Muslims or the Panthers is seen as a real threat, but the KKK and similar organizations among Whites are called………. fringe groups. What is emblematic for one ethnicity is seen as inconsequential for another despite the fact that no Black group has done to America what Timothy McVeigh did. And how about murderers of abortion providers? Where is the alarm over anti-abortion groups who say murder is in order? And the Christian groups who have declared that lying in the defense of their Truth is not a sin and is in fact called for?* Why does Fox News not hold forth on these issues or have someone from the Southern Poverty Law Center on (maybe they have, let me know)?

Now if I have misrepresented your views Jim, let me know so we can go over this. You cite Moynihan a lot as a way of placing the onus for poverty and social pathology onto Black family structure and attitudes. Let me show you why we Liberals don’t cotton much to Moynihan. To quote you:

” I will read the article as soon as I can get to it. I have one question in advance. Does the author show how having a father resident in the home does not contribute significantly to family income and wellbeing as well as being a valuable positive role model for male children and a reinforcement on control of all the children so they grow up in a way that optimizes their future well being? Does she also show that the studies showing that not dropping out of school, not having children  early and before marriage and not becoming involved in criminal or other anti-social behavior are the best predictors of the future for children from poor families are erroneous?”

To quote Moynihan: “…. the mother is forced to work (as the Negro mother so often is), when the father is incapable of contributing support (as the Negro father so often is), when fathers and mothers refuse to accept responsibility for and resent their children, as Negro parents, overwhelmed by difficulties, so often do, and when the family situation, instead of being clear-cut and with defined roles and responsibility, is left vague and ambiguous (as it so often is in Negro families).

And “a community that allows a large number of young men to grow up in broken families, dominated by women, never acquiring any stable relationship to male authority, never acquiring any set of rational expectations about the future – that community asks for and gets chaos. Crime, violence, unrest, disorder…that is not only to be expected, but they are very near to inevitable. And it is richly deserved.”

To top it all off: “At this point… the present tangle of pathology is capable of perpetuating itself without assistance from the white world.”

If anyone asks, I can unpack all this, but my point in printing it out was to show the picture of Black people – oh yes, this is just the poor Blacks, but I could say a lot about that, too – that Jim and others who imbibe the Right-wing vitriol against Black people receive. That picture is so distorted and inapplicable to the lives of people now that the best I can do is refer you to a similar academic position of the early 60s, the so-called “cultural deficit” model wherein Black children were considered lacking in the tools for normal ratiocination because they lacked the copula in predicate nominative sentences. Such ignorance of both linguistics and Black people is not forgivable and the “theory” soon found itself in the dust bin of history, where it belonged.

I do not equate Moynihan’s formulation of the problem in poor, inner-city Black populations with the cultural deficit model, although they are of a piece, and he did try to bring attention to the problem of distressed families and did cast the blame on racism in the past, but it was without doubt a way of giving an out to policy makers dealing with calls for remedies to social and economic problems. Not long after this, Goldwater, Nixon, and Wallace began using the dog whistle politics Lopez speaks of – crime in the streets, law and order, respect for the law, foreshadowing the “underclass” and “super predators” of the Clinton era. Moynihan has given the Right the ammunition it needs to wash its hands of predatory practices in Black communities by municipal authorities as in Ferguson, criminal negligence as in Flint, racially coded applications in employment agencies, Blacks targeted by subprime mortgage lenders, etc. Gingrich, Santorum and many more have continued the battle cry against Blacks, supplemented by Trump’s rapists and King’s cantaloupe calves targeting Hispanics. Kevin Phillips, a mover in the Southern Strategy which so divided this country, is appalled at the direction things have taken (what did he think would happen?). But many of us, along with Malcolm X, cry, “The chickens have come home to roost!” and the roost is Trump.

Here’s another issue Jim raises which I could unpack: education. In the exchange, despite the whole having started over the relationship between poverty and education, not much has been said, but Jim presumes the following shocking scenario: “Our public school system provides a free education sometimes with other support, such as free food, etc. so the lack of money can’t be the basic excuse. Other excuses can be offered for most cases, also and many are understandable but that does not make them right. I could unpack this because both my son and son-in-law work in disgustingly underserved and under resourced districts and I worked for years with families in distress, but I will refer you instead to Laurie’s eloquent post re poverty in the classroom and just note that when you put a child in an impoverished school you send a message to him as to his worth. What Jim says about free food and so forth is just silly. Jim’s use of the word excuses gives me pause, but it is notoriously common for people to read “explanations” as “excuses”. When I say a child didn’t take his textbook home because he has ADHD, I am not excusing the behavior, I am explaining it so we can do something about it. Punishment is not the answer.

At this point I would like to interject another topic: punishment. In the segment What Conservatives Think I will deal more with this doctrine in C/conservative thought that advances punishment as the response to unwanted behavior or the lack of desired behavior. Murders will stop if we punish murderers. They don’t. So then we have to punish even harder. The same with kids who don’t do their homework. The same with kids with learning disabilities. This notion that punishment works has been belied over and over but it has a hold on the American consciousness that is tenacious. This approach to school behavior has led in part to what Michelle Alexander calls the school to prison pipeline. When Deasy of L.A. Unified School District struck the category “willful defiance” off the discipline referral form, not only were fewer Black students expelled, more entered AP classes (I don’t have a citation for this other than Deasy saying it on a TV program: I’ve called for confirmation of this). I cannot go into the aspects of Black and Norwegian culture that result in this war between White teachers and Black students because it is very complex, although I can cite several works on the subject that are enlightening and I did a presentation on it at ACTFL that was very well attended (Thirty Years of Black Culture in the Classroom, part of the SIG presentations). A reliance on punishment has led to insane zero tolerance policies and tied the hands of skillful teachers, counselors and administrators.

An article in The Washington Post in 2011 reported on the disparate rates of school suspensions in terms of race: “71 percent of suspensions for insubordination, a relatively rare offense in the county, were handed out to black students. African Americans make up 21 percent of students in Montgomery’s schools.” Further: “In Maryland and Virginia, as in many other places, one of the most common causes of student suspensions are what many call “soft” — or discretionary — infractions: disrespect, defiance, insubordination, disruption and foul language.” One administrator opined, “As for why the race gap exists, “I think some of it is cultural sensitivity, believe it or not,” she said. Research had startling results: “In that research, African American students were more likely to be suspended for discretionary offenses and less likely than whites to be suspended for severe violations, such as selling drugs or bringing a gun to school.“If they are not involved with the more-serious offenses as often as whites are, what’s going on with those discretionary offenses?” said study co-author Michael Thompson, of the Council of State Governments Justice Center.”

This took me back to James’ outrage at the defiant student in S.C. whom the police officer yanked out of her chair for not getting off her cell phone. Pardon me while I lapse for a moment into a soliloquy that belongs more in the “What Conservatives Think” segment, but I see this raising of authority to sacred status never to be defiled by defiant youngsters as very typical of Conservatives and at the heart of their outrage at protestors against any sort of authority. Jim has a peculiar formulation of stages people supposedly go through in the relation to authority and he cites Gandhi and King as protesting against illegitimate authority as if at the time the authority were not legitimate. I am too young to remember Gandhi but I very clearly recall the vituperation heaped upon King and his followers for daring to stand up to properly constituted authority, which is exactly what they were doing. Here is what Young Americans for Freedom put out on King in 1968. The group was national and presumably this was penned by the best and the brightest of them:

“If the law can be disregarded, and if a lawbreaker can receive a Nobel Peace Prize and White House recognition, then why should the law be respected by the man in the street? If the government can loot by force, then why should people, conditioned to handouts by Dr. King’s philosophy, use the intermediary of government? Why not look directly? … The tragedy is that the stupid legislation continues, and government refuses to seek solutions to poverty and race relations within the private sector.”*

This, I believe, is as current today in Republican and C/conservative thought as it was then. The fact that the laws were not being disregarded but challenged by willingness to go to jail for breaking them; that King received recognition because he turned back people like me with my AK-47 School of Social Change tendencies (see Fukuyama); that the man in the street in their mind was White and was not being told he could not eat or pee in a public establishment or vote or live wherever he could afford; that King urged equitable distribution of aid – in 1968 I was told by older coworkers in the welfare office that minorities had only recently begun receiving assistance – and that the solutions from the private sector would then be coming from the very sector that had erected high walls against Black access…… these facts were skipped over by these young Americans so dedicated to freedom they were happy to deny it to others, in the name of private property of course.

Let me foam at the mouth a bit more: at my school, the police came to address the faculty about gang activity and upset the apple cart when they identified the most dangerous gang on campus as the White Power gang, not the Mexican gangs which the faculty so despised. What could be done in situations like these? The girl in S.C. threatened no one, she simply wanted to talk on her phone, something not allowed in the classroom and something all of us school teachers have dealt with a lot. When the girl was defiant, and I understand she had lost her mother and was in foster care, the routine is to call in a counselor to sit with the girl and talk with her. Jim’s concern seems more to be upholding authority than dealing with a child. We see this over and over among C/conservatives: school kids, especially minority school kids, are seen as either compliant or a nuisance to be got rid of. That certainly was true among the faculty at my school where one teacher asked about “the problem of minorities on campus” when my daughter was a student there. How was she a problem? But that is how so many White people see minority kids: it had to be the Mexicans at the top of the dangerous gang list, not those individuated, familiar, “normal” acting White kids. If the faculty had paid attention to the black doll hung in effigy on campus, maybe they would not have been so surprised at the P.D.’s diagnosis of our gang problem.

I realize this line of thinking, what Jim might call a difference in world views, infuriates C/conservatives because we are excusing bad behavior. The other huge insult is the notion that White teachers might need some instruction in other cultures. It is doubly insulting because #1 they are professionals and #2 the cultural explanation is just another excuse to mollycoddle kids, especially minority kids, and falls within the purview of political correctness. As professionals, we know that even kids like Michael Brown do not function the way an adult does and we supposedly make allowance for that. The real issue here is the right to question authority. Why would refusal to stop talking on a cell phone warrant an arrest? To me, and this is certainly my perspective on it, the key is a note that the school district had fairly recently undergone a large increase in the number of Black students, the same thing that happened with Mexican-American and Mexican students at my school. The teachers started their careers with mostly Anglo students and now were trapped in the school due to salary increases and could not leave and yet were dealing with students they were uncomfortable with. One lady confided in me she was afraid of her Black and Hispanic students and was ashamed of that. Neither scolding her for feeling that way or demanding total submissive compliance from a teenager do any good. Professional judgment is called for but I just do not believe…………… well, I’ll save that for my Parvum Opus.



ONE MORE THING….. I do not mean to imply at any level that the Black community does not have “issues”, as they say today. It is a constant topic in conversations at my house. What I rail against is the lack of knowledge, the distortions, and the lies about the Black family. Moynihan, perhaps against his intent, provided C/conservatives with a way out, an excuse, for his infamous benign neglect.

You wrote, Jim, that you sense I see any view different from my own to be wrong and the result of not seeing the world correctly.* For me, the word “view” is the key. Look at my segment, What Conservatives Think”. You will see that I acknowledge there are world views, perspectives, points of view, paradigms, and so forth different from my own and I do not propose to condemn them except on the basis of their outcomes. For instance, the world view that stresses personal responsibility is not one I find myself in bed with exactly, but any sane person acknowledges that personal responsibility is the bedrock of personal integrity. But that is not how C/conservatives use it. They make it sound like anyone receiving state assistance is not exercising personal responsibility, viz. Romney’s quote so destructive to his campaign about the 47%. The person who surreptitiously recorded him was a worker in the hotel, a Republican, who was appalled at what Romney was saying. He could have lost his job but had the courage working people really need to call these people out. Just as White Americans had finally had enough when they saw what happened on the Edmund Pettus bridge, many of us got fed up with this GOP war on average Americans who are not wealthy enough to get a loan from our parents to start a business. (Hey Dad, before you leave for your second shift at WalMart today, can you advance me ten thousand bucks to start a business? I’ll have Mom sign the check when she gets back from her Burger King job) What do we say to hedge fund managers who haven’t seen their kids in two weeks and then take them to a hotel for quality time only to spend all the time on the phone? Where’s personal responsibility there, especially when their kids wind up on drugs? Why do only the poor and working class get hammered like this?

At one point, Jim appears to be completely out of touch with the lives of normal people. He writes, “I doubt that you will find people with families working for a minimum wage. If they are, then there’s something more serious than wages going on. They would be receiving full-time assistance and food stamps.” Am I the only one to find this perspective on working people’s lives ludicrous? Now I will interject something extraneous once more but only because it seems to be the source of Jim’s misapprehension: I doubt very much Fox News ever showed the interviews with minimum wage workers one sees on MSNBC and, I would imagine, CNN. Fox labels such people as …………. well, in the past in these exchanges, Jim has sworn he has never heard a conservative or libertarian* say such things, but I have heard this stuff my whole life, that these people are dregs, losers, inadequate, and so on. In one memorable debate, two pairs of experts on personal finance were debating the advisability of changing the bankruptcy laws. Those in favor argued for a better understanding of what working people go through; the other pair dutifully went along with it for a while, but then finally exploded with, “Well, if you want to subsidize a bunch of free-loaders…..” Their underlying feelings came out under pressure. One young woman, when confronted with the vast amount of wealth some few people had, said, “They worked hard for that money,” as if other people didn’t work hard, too. And Rand Paul said, ““Rand Paul: Income Inequality Comes From ‘Some People Working Harder’ Than Others” We all end up working for people who are more successful than us,” the presidential hopeful said. Is this a misquote, a misinterpretation? The harder you work the more you make? That the principal I worked for was more successful than me? I am not asking you to say whether or not you agree with Paul but just to admit people DO say these things.

Back to Jim’s lack of familiarity with the Black community: he states he did not hear phrases like “institutional racism” or “white privilege” on the campus of Black colleges and universities where his wife worked. This is a problem with discourse. Few Black people use such terms; those terms are what one might call terms of art in analyzing social issues. It would be like expecting the average person to use “hegemony” in discussing world politics; it is not part of the normal vocabulary. What the people who come up with what amount to technical vocabulary try to do is find a succinct way of expressing an entire complex of concepts in a word. That is helpful in discussing issues among the cognoscenti such as public intellectuals, commentators, academics, and so forth, but unpacking the meanings, multiple meanings of these words, is some rough sledding. However, that does not mean that African-Americans do not discuss discrimination, discrepancies in treatment, etc., they just don’t use such specialized terms; they might say, “Some guy there was acting funny, you know,” and everyone knows what he means. And another major factor, in my estimation and experience: many African-Americans are loathe to bring up racial issues with Whites. I could fill this so-called essay – really more of a book at this point – with instances where attitudes toward my wife changed drastically when she brought up a racial issue, and not gratuitously but when, for example, the high school staff was allowing a Black student to wander the hallways and be out of class because, “Oh, that’s just Marcy,” as if Marcy did not need an education. Any challenge to the authority of Whites when they are dealing with Blacks is interpreted as an affront; therefore, many Blacks do not risk their disapproval and opprobrium.

Continuing with this, I note that Jim writes, “This of course assumes that Blacks can see something in the American culture that is good as opposed to all bad.” The troubling sense of that is the separation between Blacks and American culture. That may not be what Jim meant to imply, but it is stated as if Black Americans are looking at some general American culture from the outside. I assume, as I have a right to, that Jim got a good picture of the deep penetration of American culture on the part of Blacks in his course on Black History. I use the term Norwegian culture in a tongue-in-cheek manner to indicate that generalized American culture portrayed in sit-coms and dramas of the 50s and 60s, a sort of upper Midwest culture. It is worth noting that while the Germans came to the U.S. early on, the biggest wave, I believe, was around the middle of the 19th century, and the actual Norwegians about the same time, whereas Africans came to these shores in 1619, and in large numbers over time. We can even identify some of the seed cultures in West Africa: Wolof, Mende, and so on. Africans, like Germans, Scots, English, Italians, Irish, and a number of other ethnicities made up a big part of the founding of this country, and Africans were there with the first load of bricks…. unloading them.

And another theme recurrent throughout Jim’s posts: that hatred of Whites pervades the Black community. Jim does cite specific personalities on this, but I sense that he sees those personalities as having a broad and deep influence on Black society. Laughable. Few Blacks I know, unless they have an education in the Liberal Arts, think much about those matters. Back in the day, when I often encountered Blacks who wanted to ask me questions like “why do White people…..” due to the isolation imposed by segregation, and today when most Blacks interact with Whites regularly, I seldom encounter expressions of hostility. I think wariness would be a better word, like the story about the man who thought he’d be captain of the ship only when it was sinking. I will remind you though that in attending funerals even of fairly young people (40s and 50s), I am surprised at how few Whites show up. To quote Jim again, he says Blacks “This is a good step away from viewing….” Blacks who want to work with Whites as accommodationists. *While in the political realm such views might be found, for sure, generally in the Black community it has been accepted that you need to work with everybody to everybody’s benefit. Views like those of Tony Brown I mentioned earlier are carefully crafted political positions and are not commonly expressed by the average Black person. Jim concedes that most of his impressions of this have come from TV shows presenting political view points. I have urged him to view at least one of Tavis Smiley’s State of the Black Union colloquia for a broad sampling of Black elite opinion and Spike Lee’s movie Get On The Bus for an excellent portrayal of the spectrum of attitudes in the Black community

OTOH, we must not pretend that Black Americans are in a position to ignore race. Whatever some pundits may assert, Black hostility toward Whites occurs only as an appendage of something else: a political stance, a self-appointed militant stance, as part of justification for aggressing against a White person, and so on, but not free-floating hostility. BUT, there is free-floating hostility toward Blacks on the part of a lot of other people in the country. Some of it is misunderstanding, as when Korean female store clerks will not put change into a Black person’s hand, not because they are Black but because a female must not touch a male in the Korean culture. But Blacks had come from the South where it was taboo for a White person to touch a Black person. Or it could be the result of the fear I have described extensively seeping through the consciousness of White people over the centuries of slavery, like the teacher I mentioned. This juncture in the discussion is where Jim and I diverge significantly since he denies this hostility toward Blacks, real or perceived. The dynamic is more than complex and needs another Magnum Opus to dissect.

In trying to get Jim to see what happens currently, I feel like I am in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations – no progress. And in reading Jim’s arguments and comparing them to what Ian Haney Lopez outlines in his book, I wonder if Jim has imbibed more of the Right wing Kool-Aid than he should have. I am just not sure. Denial runs rampant. Public Policy Polling shows only 14% of GOP voters believe Obama is Christian and only 29% that he was born in the U.S. Therefore, 86% did not think or doubted he was Christian and 70% did not believe or doubted he was born in the U.S. How’s that for “I’ve never heard anyone express those things”? Not referring to those specifically Jim – to address you directly – but generally you deny ever having heard the crap I grew up with and I think everyone in this country grew up with. It is all over the place and Trump has opened Pandora’s box, egging on paranoid fantasies about ISIS, illegal aliens, the media, and an impossibly long list of calumnies and idiocies. If you deny it, turn on your TV set or read a newspaper, but not something that will whitewash the filth and hate that this demagogue has given free rein to.

Another area you have stressed, Jim, is Black Lives Matter. And that is an area where you and just about every Black parent are in total disagreement. You want to “punish” cops who unlawfully shoot Black people or any people but you are unwilling to confront an ugly truth, that even the good police officers, the vast majority of the police force, are reluctant to come forth regarding misdeeds by a fellow officer. And anyone who protests such shootings is quickly labeled by the media on the Right as “anti-cop” – Fox News in particular was egregious in this over the rally attended by Tarantino. conservatives insist Tarantino said all cops are murderers when his comments are available for all to hear and he spoke against police officers who violate the law and shoot citizens when it is uncalled for – and prosecutors should go after them but often do not because they need the police in order to do their job and they work closely with the police and not with the communities they serve.

The same with Black Lives Matter: they are calling for steps to reduce the number of African-Americans shot by the police or otherwise unlawfully attacked. You yourself, Jim, have admitted that some cases like the Chicago one are clear violations of the law. We have had a spate of films of police brutality and we have to wonder if those violations of law just started occurring about the same time cell phones came equipped with cameras .Unlikely.

And so Black parents know that there is a much, much greater chance of their child encountering a police officer, no matter his ethnicity, who does not like Black people than of a White parent’s child encountering a police officer who will risk his career and freedom in order to shoot down a White kid. It is just like Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: Black people always knew those were Jefferson’s descendents, just as they know they have to prepare their children to deal with the occasional rogue officer who can end their child’s life. What you would say, and I take this from all your other objections, is that it is just a matter of people looking at everything in terms of race, not that Black people are much more likely to be shot by the police and much more so in the slave states. Connection? You betcha. Just like the teachers, we have to train police officers to go for actual criminal behavior and not “sass”. That’s why it pains me that so few presenters on African-American culture deal with this: Black people do not talk like White people, for the most part. It’s called different things but scholars have studied these cultural differences and they can be addressed in training. It is one thing to accuse Blacks of being antagonistic, it is another for a policeman to infer antagonism where none is present. A language blog had a long discussion of Sandra Bland and her speech in her encounter with the officer in Texas. Seldom do we find such discussions, partly because Blacks do not like emphasizing difference because it has been used to justify discrimination. But don’t tell Black parents there is no problem: they will laugh at you. It’s called “having the talk”; you might call it raising the specter of race and we parents of Black kids call it saving our child’s life. (BTW, in meetings of parents of autistic kids this fear comes up – will an officer perceive my child as erratic and dangerous?)

I have asked my “questions of C/conservatives”, so let me quickly answer a few questions Jim posed to us which I may not have addressed elsewhere.

Re the Iran Deal – top people who are not Neocons think it’s good, including many top Israeli military people. We may have to wait and see. I remember a Right winger who swore that Gorbachev was setting us up for a sneak attack. So far, no ICBMs.

Israeli-Palestinian mess – I stopped engaging with it over forty years ago, as soon as I realized both sides claimed God was on their side. Nonsense.

Americans Exceptionalism – I think I covered this, but to underscore the high point: our political system may not be perfect, but the Founding Fathers laid the groundwork for all the good stuff that followed. They did not think it a supernatural effort and I scoff at claims of the blessings of some god that are conferred on only thus. The pride of sin, remember?

Climate change – sadly, we just may live long enough to see incontrovertible proof of it.

ISIS – a combination of insurgency and terrorist group. It claims Islamic inspiration but captives say they saw little evidence of religious motivation. I spoke of a chat I had with an oil company operative who bragged about suborning state officers in third world countries; what do you think our run-of-the-mill working guy would do with an operative from China or Saudi Arabia who tried to skirt our laws? These practices feed recruits into Islamic and Jihadist groups and demagogues in the West then paint all Muslims with that broad brush to garner votes. And thus the circle of hatred and revenge revolves upon itself.

Sharia Law – non-existent in the U.S. system but I recall commenting in one of our exchanges that similar religious courts exist in the U.S. in the Jewish faith and no one complains of that.

Thomas Jefferson – a brilliant man of his times.

O.J. – he did it.

Let me know if I missed anything.


Oh, the Father/Daughter talk thing: that’s an old one. Compare apples to oranges and claim wisdom. It’s stupid. Period. God, do we have to go into how nations have governments which need money to run which they get through taxation which provides the physical and human environment in which business can operate? I just have no patience for this.

And then the straw men: one excerpt: If a conservative doesn’t like guns, he doesn’t buy one – if a liberal doesn’t like guns, he wants all guns outlawed. I was on my school rifle team. I think man-killers should be carefully licensed and controlled, aka handguns, and military-grade weapons belong in the military, period. We could go on forever but it’s a moot point: there are too many guns out there and anyone with a wild hair up his ass can get one. Do you really think executing murderers will stop murder? That also is stupid……….. and the same for the rest of those straw men like we Liberals want the mention of God and Jesus silenced – fat chance with a church on every corner. But put in one mosque and the whole place goes up in outraged flames. Dumb, dumb, dumb…….. and unconstitutional. Oh, and the last one: If a conservative reads this, he’ll forward it so his friends can have a good laugh. A liberal will delete it because he’s “offended”. Yes, we Liberals are so offended because we are milquetoasts. That’s why I do not intervene as we are told to when someone tells a “joke”, and then another one, closer to the edge, and finally we get to the hilarious nigger and kike jokes. I just let it roll. One Baptist at work, when I told him I was at church the other day, was all surprised that I went to church…. after all, I’m a Liberal and Liberals hate God. So I soothed him by explaining it was a Unitarian-Universalist church and he said, “Oh, believe in everything and in nothing”. I did not act offended because he is an ignorant (though very nice) man but I wondered what would have happened had I said, “And you Baptists believe Mary didn’t fuck but still got a baby – I knew several girls in high school who tried that one”. He was the same person who got wide-eyed when I said the National Baptist Convention had come out in support of Clinton in the Lewinski scandal and then soothed him again by noting they are a Black organization and he just said, “Oh”, as if Black Baptists aren’t really Baptists. Thank god racism is dead.

You can find all the sermons by the Reverend Jeremiah Wright you want on YouTube, but you might listen to his speech at the Press Club because I remember it and like it. You will probably a lot that is highly objectionable, and it will give you an idea of what I like about more militant figures in the Black community like Farrakhan, Jackson, Shaprton, and many others. I do agree with them and just wish more Black people were roused to do something about the situation where Black youth receive inferior health care, inferior education, inferior justice, and on and on. What they do now is try to make it out as individuals. Why not reach back and pull up? Be careful though because sometimes the poor and uneducated can be like crabs in a bucket, pulling down the ones about to make it out of the bucket. That’s a sad fact about all oppressed groups.

And I haven’t dealt with what happens when people are released from prison. And what happens in prisons. There is so much there but it is a broad problem in a society which still believes in the power of punishment.

Let me end this segment with a question: what was the reason for the strong reaction against Obama, the Tea Party being the most obvious excresence? When Lincoln was elected, S.C. fired on Fort Sumter without bothering to find out what Lincoln might do. Knowing him now as we do, we might expect him to compromise with the South, limiting but not ending slavery. But the South could not tolerate this slap in the face to their honor, this threat to their power over their Negroes and the chance to expand their slavocracy. To me, the reaction to Obama came about because a lot of people saw his election and elevation to the Presidency as a stain on the honor of the country, a nigger in the White House. That is how I read it and still read it.











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