Thursday, April 15, 2021

Ninety Days In – BP 120/80

 

Deep Breath!

If you’re like me, the four years of the Trump administration put a bit of blip in your health statistics. My blood pressure was up, my blood glucose was as well, thanks to daily self-medication in the form of cocktails, and I was constantly angry and/or frustrated with just about everything and nearly everyone.

And why not? Science had been suspended, truth telling became an anomaly, and a goodly number of rituals and processes had been tossed into the dustbin of history. You know things like, Presidents who release their income tax returns, Presidents that treat people with respect to the point of respectfully disagreeing on things. Members of Congress making a stand for the Country instead of solely for their party or personal checkbook.

Ah, how quaint those days seemed.

Those last couple of weeks were a test all their own. Who would have guessed His Orangeness would have the temerity to enrage his base enough to actually storm the Capitol in an insurrection effort to stop the rightful certification of the legal Federal election of a President? As of this moment, the Justice Department hasn’t brought charges against many people but the wheels of justice turn slowly. There are efforts underway.

I do find it interesting that even now, there is a substantial percentage of Republicans who claim that election was stolen and their candidate won – in a landslide! In other words, they’re saying that not only was there fraud at the ballot box but that it was on a scale of millions of ballots! Millions! I mean, there are certainly people whose word I trust implicitly but if they were to call me and say something completely outrageous and I know to be false like, “All the money in your paycheck was deposited by Russians this week; you’ll have to give it back to them!” I’d be getting an Uber to take them to the nervous hospital. I damn sure wouldn’t be storming the Russian Embassy to hand them a check!

This is the same group, by the way, that is refusing to be vaccinated against Covid-19 because they don’t trust what’s in it or how quickly it was created. Never mind that in the next breath, they’ll point out that it was “developed under Trump and he gets no credit for it.” And right after that, they'll knock back a chili dog with extra chili and fries – having no idea what’s in the hot dog. Oh, then take something for acid reflux without knowing what’s in that or how it works. But, no, they’re not hypnotized zombies! They’re free-thinking adults who refuse to let those Commie-Socialists ruin their country.

Uh huh.

Thankfully, there is less stress since the inauguration of President Biden. He almost never Tweets, he’s having daily meetings with his Cabinet and Congressional leaders in an effort to get the country past the pandemic and back on its feet. It appears that 200 million people will have gotten at least partially vaccinated by his 100th day in office, twice as many as he set out to do on Inauguration Day.

President Joe Biden

He’s acting so presidential, that I realized I forgot what that used to look like!

We’re coming up on the first ninety days of this administration and things are looking up and yet, there are people who desperately want Biden to fail. Why? Because he’s not Trump and “we” all wanted him to fail.

I don’t know about you but I desperately wanted him to succeed and prove me wrong. I mean, I can’t stand the guy – he’s skeevy, underhanded, has the morals of a ¾ rat, and brought in people who were worse than him to help him run the country. But he had been duly elected and been given the chance to run the country as he saw fit. Those are rules in this country. I had a suspicion that he’d be in over his head and that proved to be correct almost immediately. But I still wanted success because when the President is successful, America and Americans are successful.

(Was I successful during the Trump Administration? I was and that's been true during every single administration since I became an adult - going all the way back to Carter. Why? Well, I work hard, I'm privileged in this country as a white male, and I've also been lucky on a number of occasions. I enjoy helping others, too, so maybe my luck is actually karma. But I digress.)

Instead Trump showed that someone focused only on himself in that role, and surrounding himself with people just like him, winds up in trouble. His biggest accomplishment was to appoint far more judges (conservative to be sure) than his predecessors but that had less to do with him and far more to do with then Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whose legacy is still be written. But the number of unqualified judges he ramrodded through the system are going to make for some painful swings to our country in the areas of individual rights, abortion, and fairness of the application of the law. (Think I’m wrong? Google Trump appointed judges qualifications and enjoy the read. 85% male, 76% white, and only 5% black, please.)

Here’s the good news: We’re ninety days in and my blood pressure is under control. We’re slowly digging out of the pandemic (and would more quickly if everyone would get vaccinated and wear a damn mask!) and the economy is showing signs of strengthening.

Let’s keep it going, Joe!

Thursday, February 11, 2021

In August of 1974, I was between my junior and senior years of high school. I had a part time job in retail, played a lot of golf, hung out with friends and watched a President, Richard M. Nixon, fall from grace. 
I am not a crook!


Contrary to popular notion, he was not impeached. He resigned. 

 And he did it because a group of Senators from his own party, came to the Oval Office and told him that enough votes existed that if he were to be impeached, he’d very likely be convicted and be forced to step down. For the good of the Country, they requested that he resign. 

Woodstein!!!!
To be sure, he was about to be impeached. The House Judiciary Committee had passed Articles of Impeachment which came as a result of weeks of testimony that came to be known
as the Watergate Hearings. And those hearings were called as a direct result of terrific investigative reporting by two journalists of the Washington Post, Woodward and Bernstein. 



I remember thinking that it was extraordinary that a President had resigned. In my young life, I’d seen one be assassinated (Kennedy) and one choose not to run for re-election (Johnson) and now I got to see one resign in disgrace and his Vice President (Ford) step into the
A Blanket Pardon?!

Presidency and issue a “blanket pardon” for everything his predecessor had done whether or not he’d been caught. 

 He issued the pardon in an effort let the nation heal. While his action was lauded by many, election day took place less than ninety days later and 5 GOP Senators and 49 GOP Representatives were sent home. The electorate evidently wanted to make a statement to the elected that they were still in charge! 

I didn’t expect to see anything like that, again, in my life. It was a once in a lifetime occurrence, right?

 But yesterday, House Impeachment managers provided 8 hours of evidence to support the single Article of Impeachment, Incitement of Insurrection. And it was incredibly compelling, using a combination of the President’s own words in Tweets and videos to show the path to January 6th, when a large group of his supporters breached security at the Capitol in an attempt to stop the certification of the election of Joe Biden. 
This is not a protest, it's a riot. A terrorist act. An act of treason.


Some of the video of the riot had not been seen by the public prior to the trial and it was chilling to watch and listen. A few of the Senators stood in rapt attention in an effort to hear whispered, frightened words of people hiding in offices, see people being beaten and, in one instance, shot by a Capitol Police officer. 

This took eight hours and was broadcast on CNN and the Congressional channel. (Nowhere else was it broadcast in its entirety which is amazing to me. In 1974, every channel had the hearing on, live!) 

What was most disturbing to me, though, is that many of the Republican Senators couldn’t be bothered to pay attention. They were in attendance. They occasionally looked up to see who was speaking. Some watched the videos that were shown. Too many read books (comic books in one case) worked through paperwork, and some even napped. Because, they say, this trial is a farce since the former President is already out of office. Some say it’s unconstitutional to even hold this trial. Some say that the President didn’t incite the riot, he was simply exercising his First Amendment rights. Those that aren’t saying these things are glad others are because it gives them cover when it comes time to vote to acquit. 

But if you watched the story told by the Impeachment Managers, in Trump’s own words and actions, it is achingly clear that the former President made a determined effort to void an election that was anything but fake with results that were definitive and accurate. An election that he lost, unequivocally! 

His defenders will say that he did that, simply because he thought he won. But the story that was told began more than a year ago when he began stating that he could only lose if the election was rigged. At the time, he was trailing very badly and that remained the case right up to election day. Then, he continued his lies around the veracity of the count. His one truth was to state that he got more votes than any incumbent ever; but that was also 7 million votes fewer than his opponent! And in riling up his supporters and telling them, on the morning of January 6th, that they needed to “fight like hell” to stop what was going on at the Capitol, he got his base to do his bidding and attack. 

 In the next few days, his lawyers will put on a defense. They are unable to dispute any of what was shown yesterday because it is all factual. It’s proof that the former President of the United States attempted to overthrow an election to remain in power. 

That’s against the law. 

 It’s treason. 

 It’s unconstitutional. 

 And it requires punishment. (Back in the old days, it was punishable with death. Fortunately, we’ve evolved.) 

The Senate is operating under the Constitution which states that a 2/3 majority is required to find the President guilty. Too bad that the jurors (Senators) in this case include a bunch of Trump’s co-conspirators. (Cruz, Hawley, Kennedy, Graham, Tuberville to name a few). 

So, I pose this question to this august body, purported to be the greatest deliberative body in the world – 

 Are there not sixty-seven good and honest people among you? Who, like the Senators in 1974, were willing to put country over party?

Friday, November 20, 2020

Elections and Consequences

 

It’s time

Seventeen days ago, the United States of America held election day. It was preceded by several weeks of early voting in a number of states (Virginia included) and expanded absentee / mail in voting. A majority of the voting population, about 60%, took advantage of these alternatives voting methods to avoid exposure to the Corona virus. This change to the way we vote in national elections caused results to be delayed longer than we’re used to but it also provided us with, according to bi-partisan officials, “the most transparent and unencumbered election in history.”

President-Elect Biden

As of this writing, the Electoral College vote count shows Biden leading incumbent Trump, 306 to 232. This is a clear victory for Biden and the margin of votes in key “battleground” states is far higher than Trump managed in his 2016 win over Hilary Clinton. The total popular vote shows Biden with a 6 million+ vote lead with about .5% of votes left to be counted.

In other words, Biden is the President-elect of the United States.

And yet…

Transition as planned
Our nation has always prided itself on a peaceful transfer of power from the incumbent President to the new one. Even in 2016, arguably one of the most contentious presidential elections that I can recall, Clinton conceded the race within 24 hours and President Obama welcomed President-elect Trump to the White House to begin the transition within a week’s time. The Trump transition team was given
everything it desired and needed to begin the process of setting up a new government. (There are well documented reports of how the Trump transition team had little to no clue how to do this thus beginning a culture of incompetence that has lasted for four years but that’s for a different post.)

Here we are, 16 days after election, and Trump hasn’t conceded the race to Biden. He has Tweeted dozens of times that he “won the election” and in some claimed to win in a landslide. He has made so many false claims about the election up to this point (including vast conspiracies that have been disproven) that Twitter has placed more declarations of inaccuracy on his tweets than not!

It gets worse…

Over the past week or so, lawyers for Trump have filed lawsuits in multiple states across the country claiming various forms of election fraud. None of these have been filed in states that Trump was declared victor, mind you. Thus far, 28 of 31 have been thrown out for lack of evidence and the remaining 3 have been waiting for proof or evidence to investigate. (There isn’t any, they’re simply waiting for it to be presented.)

Yesterday the lead attorney for the President, Rudy Giuliani, held a news conference

Lying may cause sweating

where one of the other attorneys presented the notion that the President had won “in a landslide” and the reason the results weren’t showing that is because of a vast and dark conspiracy that involved voting machines created by Hugo Chavez in Venezuela to undermine their elections. These same types of machines are being used in swing states to undermine the President and his re-election.

Election Disrupter
(For those of you without access to Google, Hugo Chavez died in 2013. Trump hadn’t declared his intention to run for President in 2016 by then. And why on earth would the machines be set to elect Biden while allowing the loss of seats in the House And not flip the Senate? I mean, how far does one have to reach to believe this stuff???)

After watching parts of this press conference, I’m left to wonder, “What the hell?”

Time to move on

Our current President appears to be doing everything in his power to remain in power. He has always been unique in his approach to the job, sometimes bordering on the fringes of legal and often stomping all over what has been considered moral and right.

While this is hardly new, I think he’s overreaching. What he’s doing crosses the line into the area of treason. Yes, treason.

Treason is defined as “the crime of betraying one's country, especially by attempting to kill the sovereign or overthrow the government.

As I stated before, the US has always had a process in place for the peaceful transfer of power. As the US rose to the most powerful country in the world, doing so became critical to the stability and safety of the free world. This peaceful transfer has been called out, time and time again, as an example of how democracy should, and did, work.

By taking the tack that he has, President Donald J. Trump has chosen to betray our country by attempting to overthrow the government, the part of government being the effective and fair manner of holding an election. And this election has been called by bi-partisan officials as transparent and unencumbered.

What am I asking?

I’m asking for the President to concede the race and begin the transition process. If he continues in his current fashion, I’m asking for the Cabinet to remove him under the 25th Amendment (because he’s become unable and unwilling to govern effectively).

After the new administration is inaugurated, I’m calling on the Justice Department to follow the law and prosecute anyone in the administration who has violated the Federal statutes. I also include anyone in the Republican caucus that has enabled the illegal behavior that we’re seeing.

Why would I ask this, when everyone is saying it would divide the country further? Because we need to ensure this isn’t going to happen, ever again.

Because in the end…

The Great American Experiment has taken 240 years to get to this point and almost fall apart. We must get a head start on the next two centuries. A fresh start. A clean start.

Time to take out the trash. 

This is the Trash.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

I'm tired.

 

They Still Do!

I’m tired.

I’m tired of hearing people that I care about, people that are of reasonable intelligence, talking about how great our current President is and what a great job he’s done during the Pandemic and that, as Americans, we should all rally around him.

Yes, Dr. Fauci, we know.

(He hasn’t even done an adequate job. Seriously. He refuses to listen to experts in their fields unless they spend time sucking up to him. He’s rejected science at every opportunity. His lack of clear leadership is stunning. Think about it. If he’d simply said, “We all need to wear masks and social distance and wash our hands, everyone!” Damn near, all his followers would have done so and we’d have half the deaths reported and a good bit of the economy would be back up and running. Of course, if he showed leadership some of those same followers would rebel, I suppose.)

I’m tired of hearing people who are evidently not of reasonable intelligence, pontificate about how we should “reopen our country and get back to business” and the sooner we do that the sooner we can get back to normal. 

(These people seem to think that “normal” isn’t currently happening because we’ve chosen to react to this “alleged pandemic” and we should get over it. Moreover, they seem to believe that everything will just go back to the way it was pre-pandemic. This is just willful ignorance! The pandemic is still in effect and it’s killing about 1,000 people a day. And we’re doing precious little to stop it!

So many businesses will remain closed permanently and all their employees will be out of work for a very long time. Having learned that their employees work well from home some large businesses will reduce the size of or eliminate their current offices. There could be millions of square feet of empty, wasted retail and office space in the next year. That drags down the economy for a long time and is likely to cause a recession that is far bigger than the last one and potentially larger than the Great Depression. Some point to the Stock Market and how well it’s doing as an indicator of good things. Sorry, that’s not the economy. Not when consumer spending makes up 70% of the economy! Many consumer providers have been struggling to hit acceptable numbers which is likely to continue until we have an effective vaccine. The US is in a tenuous place right now, readers, and many of the citizens don’t realize that.)

I’m tired of hearing people say that those numbers (the people that have tested positive to the virus along with those who’ve actually died from it) are incorrect and are a figment of the imagination of the Mainstream Media who, everyone knows, are Fake News and just want the liberals to take over the country because they “hate America” and want us to become a Communist country. Or Socialist, or Marxist, or Antifa, or…..you get the idea.

(When did science and factual evidence become a “political position?” I am absolutely gobsmacked by the abject stupidity of Americans. Some person on my FB page a few weeks ago, told me that something I had posted, how Colin Kaepernick came to decide to kneel during the Anthem, was BS and simply a made-up story because if it had been real, the Mainstream Media would have “been all over it.” I googled the incident I was talking about, produced the story from the LA Times; about as mainstream as one can get. He read it and decided that since he hadn’t seen it and didn’t believe that it was a former Green Beret that had given Kaepernick the idea, it was still BS! We choose to not believe the truth because it’s not OUR truth, apparently.)

Finally, I’m tired of patiently talking to these people, asking clarifying questions, empathizing with their positions, and providing a different point of view with accompanying facts to back up my position. Because they think that they aren’t facts, just “more liberal bullshit.”

But yesterday, I got a jolt of energy when the VP candidate was announced by Joe Biden’s campaign as Senator Kamala Harris! She’s smart, she’s tenacious, and she’s qualified for the job.

Now, I have hope. I believe there’s a chance that the country can be taken back from the scourge of fascism that has been in power for the last 3 years. While the polls show that they’re leading, we all need to believe that we’re way behind. We can’t rest, I can’t rest, even though I’m tired.

It’s time!


Thursday, June 25, 2020

My Day of Reckoning



I had a moment this past Sunday. It was a moment that was unlike any I’d had in my sixty-three+ years. I’m still processing it because, as I’ve heard younger folks say, it had all the feels.

It was a moment of White People’s Privilege revealed, of Black Lives Matter amplified. I’m not yet sure what it will become…

Father’s Day Plans

Sunday was Father’s Day. Our youngest daughter has been visiting for a couple of weeks while working remotely and preparing to go to graduate school. Our middle daughter, who lives nearby, planned a celebration with her sister, her boyfriend, and My Bride to come over for a special lunch, carried out from a local grill. This allowed me to get my favorite, the Unicorn Burger (combined ground beef and bacon) for a rare treat.

Our two older kids were unavailable for lunch, but I spoke with both via text during the day. I also called my father for a half hour chat, too.

The plan was to eat lunch, take a stroll over to the Lee Monument which is the main site of all BLM protests in Richmond these days, and then saunter back home. On 
the way, we’d pass by a local ice cream shop for a treat.

Sounds incredibly white bread, middle American, doesn’t it?

Lunch was a joyful hour with laughter and talk of good times, out in the backyard under the shade of a tree that makes the place look like a French garden.

Life changes

Leon Traveler - before
After lunch, we started walking the eight blocks to the Lee Monument that sits on Virginia state land on Monument Avenue. (If you don’t know Richmond VA, it’s worth googling all of this to understand the context.) The area is a grass island about fifty yards across and, in the middle, sits a forty-foot tall pedestal upon which sits a twenty-foot tall statue of Lee on his horse Traveler. (A guy I know who was born and raised in Richmond was told by his father, every time they passed it, “Look there’s Lee on Traveler.” For a long time, he thought the statue was of someone named Leon Traveler.)

The Lee Monument is a glaring tribute to Gen. Robert E. Lee who led the Confederate Army in the Civil War. A graduate of West Point, he was considered a military genius and great leader who resigned his commission in the US Army to fight for his homeland, the South. (He was from Virginia.) After surrendering to Gen. U. S. Grant at Appomattox, he returned to his beloved state to live out his days. The statue to him was erected in 1890 to memorialize his efforts in the “Lost Cause” of the Confederacy. It has been a sharp stick in the eye for black people ever since as it essentially tells them that they’re lucky to no longer be enslaved. But they could be, should the South Rise, Again! (Can you imagine statues of Hitler, placed by his followers after the war was lost? Just to remind people that they could still be Nazis?)

As we got closer, we could hear up tempo music coming from near the monument. When we rounded the corner, we were greeted with an amazing site. (I have been walking or riding past regularly but weather had kept me away for the last week or so.)

Leon Traveler - with additional art
The entire circle had been surrounded by barricades (portable concrete things like you see in highway construction) a few days before in preparation for removing the statue which had been ordered by the Governor. The barricades had all been painted in bright colors and covered with all manner of graffiti, most of which having to do with the BLM movement.

New name
As we got closer, other things caught my eye. A banner had been erected on two posts welcoming everyone to the Marcus-David Peters Circle. (He was a young black schoolteacher who was having a mental health crisis 2 years ago. He was gunned down by a police officer while running naked near the interstate. There is a call for a law that requires mental health professionals to handle calls such as this in the future, and it’s named for him.)

The pedestal had multiple layers of graffiti on every available space, rising almost to the top of the structure. Very little space had been spared the artist’s work. My brain attempted to process all the messages as my eyes roved slowly over the work. After staring for several minutes, and walking all around the circle, I finally realized something. The memorial made sense; it finally had context that had been missing for over a century.

The statue seems to be saying, “We left our country and fought a war to allow us to keep owning people! When we lost that war, the victors made an effort to build the nation back together by allowing us back into the Republic but we no longer had our slaves, people who had been our property. We built this monument to someone who embodied and fought for what we believed in just to let you know that we hadn’t disappeared completely. That given a chance, we’d enslave you again because the Lost Cause isn’t really lost until we say so! That’s why we still fly the Stars and Bars flag. That’s why we keep you down whenever we get a chance, so you know your place.”
Artwork by Anger

The graffiti seems to be saying, “We have been victims of your biases, beliefs, and actions for 400 years! Every time we’ve said ‘Enough!’ you’ve grudgingly given us some tiny freedom but took something else away in return. And you’ve never stopped killing us, harassing us, treating us as lesser beings. And we’ve taken it for the last time. We’re going to point out systemic racism and we’re going to keep doing it until you say ‘Enough!’ We want, and we deserve, equality and justice. And we will not settle for less.”

MB and I made eye contact. She said quietly, “It finally looks right, doesn’t it?” I vigorously agreed.

The Gallery of the Dead

By this time, I’d been walking around the circle for about twenty minutes. I finally noticed dozens of small signs placed around the perimeter of the pedestal, on the grounds, and some up on the pedestal itself. All of them looked nearly the same. On each was a small photograph of a black person. Next to the picture was text describing them in detail. More importantly, it described how they had died at the hands of police officers. In nearly every case, the person in the picture had been minding their own business when they were stopped in their car; or stopped while jogging; or stopped while walking through their neighborhood; or doing something else completely legal. Smiling, happy, young, beautiful, actual people all dead. 

Dozens of them.

After reading the fifth or sixth one, I suddenly realized that I was struggling to keep my composure. My eyes were filling up, and I could feel a sob welling up in me. My heart hurt. Before I ended up on my knees, I turned and walked a few steps away and leaned against the barricades, at the perimeter, closed my eyes and took some deep breaths. I began to calm down but as that happened, I could feel something else coming on.

I found myself filling with anger and despair and frustration and disgust. I’ve tamped it down, a bit, since Sunday but it’s still there.

I’m angry that after the war, so much work went into rebuilding in an effort to “bind the nation’s wounds” only to be wasted when so many white people decided that they “hadn’t actually lost” the war. And that those people managed to rise into power, and created another way to keep slaves, just not call them that. Laws were passed that allowed people who were arrested to be used as labor – and guess who they made sure got arrested? And the people that did all that arresting were the fore runners to today’s police departments. (Want to read about it?   https://plsonline.eku.edu/insidelook/brief-history-slavery-and-origins-american-policing )

I’m frustrated this level of systemic racism still exists! That black people simply don’t have justice or even equality in this country. That black people earn, on average, less than 80% of their white counterparts with the same education and experience. That black people live in neighborhoods with a lower tax base and, therefore, worse school systems, so it makes it more difficult to get the same education. That black people are far more likely to be arrested, jailed, and killed by our penal system. 

And I’m most frustrated with the fact that there is a plurality of white people who don’t know this and really don’t care enough to do anything about it. And aren’t even willing to listen because they aren’t going to change their minds.

And I’m disgusted with myself for not having listened before. Not taken the time to learn. Not had the balls to stand up and say, “Enough!”  Like most white people, I don’t think I’m a racist. But if I’m going to say that a “good cop” who doesn’t say anything when a “bad cop” is misbehaving is, really, just another bad cop, then I have to say the same thing about myself.

I’ve been a racist all my life and I must change.

Learning is needed

What is it going to take for white people to understand all this? How many more of our black brothers and sisters must be enslaved, mistreated, imprisoned, even killed before we all say, "ENOUGH!"?

What will it take before everyone understands that we all share the same 99.9% of DNA, that of homo sapiens, also known as humans? Scientists tell us that we all are descended from the first humans in Africa. 

In other words, we’re all black! How do we get that across to everyone?

Where do I go from here? To be continued…

Friday, June 12, 2020

I’m not a racist, just ask me!


(Let me start by saying that I’m a white male, over sixty years of age, and I don’t claim to be anything but that. I’m no expert – just a guy going through life and learning a little bit more every day. I admit that I’m a racist and I work to become less of one every day. I work to make the world better every day. This post is dedicated to that.)

Last fall, I was talking with one of my less liberal friends (okay, he’s MAGAT) and he said to me at some point,

“Obama was the most racist SOB I’ve ever seen in my life and took this country back 50 years!”

When I asked him how he’d arrived at that opinion, he said,

“Are you deaf? All he ever talks about is race and black people and helping the black people. He’s got the Presidency. What more does he want?”

When I pointed out that he’d been elected by the majority and was only looking to continue work that had been done before him, namely working for justice, he said,

“All he did was stir people up. He’s caused more division than ever before. Things were moving along just fine before he was elected.”

The conversation ended soon after but it stuck with me for a very long time.

I’ve been saying for years that we, as a nation, are headed for a civil war – this time between the haves and the have nots. The latter is made up of an abundance of black people and while there have been strides made over the last 50 years, they’ve been slow to come. Equality has been achieved, at least on paper, and equity has been given in miniscule doses. Justice, which is what Dr. Martin Luther King advocated for, has never gotten much movement.


Justice, as this picture shows, is the removal of the barriers that cause black people to suffer inequity and inequality. And removing them requires a major shift in some things that can’t be legislated – culture and belief.

Why? Because the culture of racism, the belief that one group is better than another solely because of skin color, is the driving force behind those barriers. If one group believes they are better than another, even if it’s subconscious bias, the barriers will be erected and nourished. Or at the very least, left in place.

But I’m NOT a racist!

I used to say that. Until I was shown the concept of white privilege and came to understand that some of the things in my life were the direct result of being white. (I admit, this took a long time for me to get. I knew how hard I’d worked, how I’d made something of myself. And often, I thought, with no one’s help. It’s taken a great deal to admit that I’d gotten a leg up because I’m white.)

And learning about it stopped me in my tracks. It made me look inside myself to understand how I could be blind to my fellow humans’ mistreatment. After a good bit of reflection, I realized I am racist (spoiler alert – we all are) and I decided that I would change it. Interested?

White Privilege – I’ve heard of it and I don’t believe it. Everything I got I worked for!

White privilege takes many forms and is difficult, for me at least, to define. I understand it, one level, to be: getting more opportunities because your skin is not black. On another level, it’s having obstacles put in front of you because you’re black. What makes it difficult for white people to see is that we’ve been getting it for so long, we just assume it’s normal. Here are some examples.

Studies have shown that when two people who are applying for the same job have similar qualifications, experiences, and education, the person with the more “whiter sounding name” is more likely to be called for an interview by a factor of more than 3 to 2. (The “white” name had to send 10 resumes for a call back. “Black” names had to send 15. That’s from the National Bureau of Economic Research, a non-partisan research firm.)

Are you wondering if that’s true? Okay, here’s a little test for you. Here are some names of people applying for a job. Which name sounds white or black to you?

Jamaal Washington versus Jim Washington

Sandy Van Cleve versus Shami’qua Van Cleve

Stone Harris versus Stephan Harris

Did you catch yourself putting them into categories? That just makes you average! Now you’re going to be looking out for it but before this exercise, you may not have even thought about it.

The Traffic Stop

If you’ve ever been pulled over by a police officer while driving your car, what were you thinking as you slowed down and stopped? Was it focused on getting out your driver’s license/registration/insurance card? Was it focused on the reason as in, why did he stop me? Was it focused around the excuse you’d use for speeding? If it was any of these, you are most probably a white person.

Black people tell me that their first thoughts are focused on keeping their hands in plain sight, at all times, and waiting to be given instructions. Or their thoughts are focused on how reasonable the police officer is or how likely he is to abuse them. Or to remind themselves to be as low-key, respectful, and follow every request of the police officer and don’t give them a reason to kill you.

That’s right, they’re worried about being killed or injured during an act that almost no white person would ever worry about being killed. The. Same. Act.

Next time you’re pulled over, think about how it must feel to worry about being roughed up and possibly killed for having an expired license plate, or a burned-out taillight.  As the police officer walks to your car, think about sitting very still, with your hands up on the dashboard or hanging out the window so he can see them, hoping he’s not one of those types.

You don’t have to, of course, because of white privilege.

Income and Jobs

When white people and black people are in the same job, the black employee earns about 20% less, on average. Same experience level, same education, same training, but different pay. Just because of the different pigmentation of one’s skin.
And black people are less likely to picked for the same job as white people or need more qualifications to get the same job as a white person. This data exists in every study that’s been done by every institution.

Every. Single. One.

Housing and Schooling

There’s a trickle-down effect to the income and jobs piece. It means that black people are less likely to own a home and if they do, it’s less expensive than a white person’s home. Since it’s probably in a less expensive neighborhood, the tax base is smaller. As such, the public schools don’t get as much funding and probably aren’t as new, as good, as well appointed, and struggle to turn out high test scores. This, in turn, makes it more difficult for black people to get into colleges and universities – those that do are more likely to have higher student loans that they struggle to pay back, assuming they’re able to break through and graduate. And it continues again.

It’s a Black and White Cycle

White privilege creates a cycle of white opportunities and more chances to be successful. It expands the chances for you and others like you to flower and grow. 

And you don’t even realize it.

In so doing, it creates a cycle of black oppression as explained above that becomes harder and harder to break through. It means that black people get fewer and fewer chances to flower and grow. The difference is, they realize it and fight like crazy to break out. Frankly, I’m amazed that so many have been able to!

Racism has gone on for centuries. Finally, America seems to have reached a turning point that needed to come, the “civil war” I referenced earlier. These last couple of weeks have been painful with hundreds of demonstrations, some turning violent, and rioting and looting. I’m hoping it doesn’t escalate any farther than that. Dr. King wrote that “riots are the voice of the unheard” when asked why people do it.

Think about this; three years ago, Colin Kaepernick was vilified for protesting police brutality by taking a knee during the National Anthem. White people, including the President, called him out for doing it and the NFL shut down the act in all their games. (That’s not the right was to protest this! You’re disrespecting the Flag, the Anthem, America, the Military! Stop!)

Now, black people (joined by white people who are fed up, too) are marching against police brutality and systemic racism and a very small percentage of those people are setting fire to businesses and looting. Again, white people are saying “that’s not the way to protest!”

So, what is the right way? When will white people (the ones in charge) say, “Oh, now we hear you! That’s the right way to protest!” And then do something about it????

These marches and protests will not be the big event that changes everything all at once. Culture doesn’t change (trust me, I’m an expert on this; it’s my job) as if a switch has been flipped. It will take at least a generation to change and that’s if everyone commits to working at it. Without full commitment it could take several generations.

Was my MAGAT friend correct? Was Obama a racist?

If I go with the belief that everyone is at least a little bit racist, then yes, President Obama was a racist. That’s an oversimplification, of course. More importantly, he called out racism when he saw it in action which causes discomfort among those continuing the cycle of white privilege. Their response, rather than to own their own issues and have a conversation that could result in understanding and change, was to go “underground” with their feelings. And then, after he served his two terms, elect someone to the role who is all about White Privilege, writ large! That has allowed them to come back out into the mainstream, talk about what a racist he was and put all the white privilege cycle back into place – returning it to the status quo.

The results have been devastating to black people for the past three years. Finally, with the clearly recorded murder of George Floyd, the time came. Enough white people were appalled to get up and say, “Enough! This must change!”

If that group all remains engaged, and listens and takes their lead from black people, we have a chance to slow and eventually stop this vicious cycle. Diligence will be required as work like this is ever easy. In fact, it’s damned hard. I’ve decided I’m going to do my share.

How am I getting better?

I’m asking questions (of black people, if possible) and then I’m shutting my mouth and listening. The questions are those that I’ve never asked before, like:

Should black people be called that or African-Americans or what?” (Black people is a better choice unless you hear differently)

Is white privilege really a thing? What does it look like?” (See above)

How do I become less racist?” (See above)

What’s the best way for me to be an ally?” (listen to black people, hear them stand with them, don’t pretend to know how they feel, and look for ways to block systemic racism)

I’m also doing research on the web, reading and watching videos. A recent series just began called “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man” by Emmanuel Acho. It’s an outstanding series and I highly recommend it. (Google it.)

In the future I’ll post books and other things I’ve found. Thanks for listening.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Pandemic – a word we didn’t know becomes our life



It’s been about 6 weeks since I last posted and things have continued to remain interesting.

Here in Virginia, we’re still under a shelter-in-place order for everything but essential businesses; these include grocery stores, Walmart (sure), pharmacies, and liquor stores. (ABC is a state run monopoly.) Restaurants are unable to seat people but are attempting to remain afloat by offering curbside or delivered meals. (GrubHub and Uber Eats may be the only growth industries in this time.) The order that’s currently in place is until June 10th, about five more weeks from today.
Gov. Northam

This past week, the governor (only one in the country who is a medical doctor by trade) started allowing surgery centers to perform elective surgeries again and allowed for dental offices to open, too. He also recommended people wear face masks or face coverings when out and about. This may explain the dental offices re-opening. You put on a mask, having never worn one, and you’ll know right away that you shouldn’t have skipped that last dental cleaning.

So, How’s it going?

I think it depends on who you ask. I’m very lucky as I still have my job that I can do from home. I’m on webex meetings about five or six hours a day and find myself working far more than I do when in the office. Evidently, being able to walk around and talk to people and meet in conference rooms instead of meeting virtually is less taxing. It is on me, anyway.

MB was furloughed about 5 weeks ago. She works for a non-profit and expected to be so it wasn’t a surprise. We’re fortunate enough to be okay financially, despite the loss of one paycheck, so she is spending a great deal of time working on crafts, baking bread, and cooking some amazing meals. She’s also a healthy cook so I have managed to keep any weight gain at bay.

For exercise, we walk every day. I’ve put my bike on the trainer and ride for an hour at least two days a week. I’ve also gone to the local tennis courts, which are closed, but I can hit balls against a wall for 30 minutes or so.

Others aren’t fairing as well. The last financial disaster, called the Great Recession 2008, took a huge toll on a lot of people but none more than the upper-middle class. That group took the worst of it and it’s taken the last decade to dig back out. I suspect that only about 70% of them have gotten back to where they were before it happened. That said, the upper middle class is doing much better this time around.

The lowest quartile of earners in this country are getting killed by this pandemic and the shutdown. They’re the least likely to have health insurance and were the first to be laid off or furloughed as so many consumer businesses closed. Most had no savings and are really struggling to make ends meet, now. Last week it was reported that over 30 million had filed for unemployment so far, which is about 20% of the working population and I imagine that close to one quarter of the working folks are out of work right now.

My greatest fear is the financial divide will have grown, again, after this is over. And that’s a recipe for disaster in our country.

We Want to Work! Set us Free!

Morons with the Right to Assemble
As a result of all the states closing businesses, people are beginning to get restless. Rallies are being staged in state capitals where “armed demonstrators” are showing up to make their point that they don’t care about the Coronavirus, they just want to get back to work.

My feeling is, if you show up at the legislature with weaponry, you’re not a demonstrator. You’re either a terrorist or an anarchist. You want to talk, you come with a brief case and dress appropriately. You come in body armor with an assault rifle, you’re not looking to have a discussion. You’re looking to make people do something they probably aren’t planning to do, with no dialog. Just orders.

Every picture I’ve seen of these groups they appear to be overwhelmingly white, and overwhelmingly male. We all know that white people have suffered horribly over the centuries, downtrodden by The Man, unable to stand upright. (Wait, that’s not the white people. My bad.)

What I’ve found interesting in these demonstrations is that no one gets shot. I suspect that’s because it’s a bunch of white guys. You put a couple hundred people of color out there, give ‘em guns, and someone is going to take a bullet. (Talk about downtrodden.)

I think what pisses me off the most is what a bunch of enabled, entitled bunch these guys are. A couple of generations ago, entire countries gave up nearly all their freedom to come together and defeat actual dictators. These clowns are ticked off that they’ve had to watch Netflix for six weeks. Beer has been plentiful and the only big shortages have been toilet paper and bread. In WW2, coffee was RATIONED! Now you’re pissed that Starbucks only does curbside. In WW2, shoes were RATIONED! The only difficulty with getting shoes, right now, is having to wait for Amazon or Nike or Zappos to ship them slower than they normally do. I mean, come on!

Of course, the Chief of Entitlement is on the side of these folks (because they voted for his dumb ass) while telling everyone they really shouldn’t get too close to each other, nudge, nudge, wink, wink. The same Moron in Chief also thinks that he’s smarter than all the scientists because he came up with the idea of UV light and Disinfectants in the body as a way to defeat the “silent killer.”
Fauci: "JFC this guy is stupid!"

(Someone in the future is going to read that last paragraph and say, “No, not really!” I hope the history books are kept up to date because future generations are never going to believe this shit.)

Tough Decisions

Look, I know that the governors are struggling with Crappy Option A vs Crappy Option B when it comes to re-opening businesses. It’s going to be hard to open things up without really good data (and far more testing) and if doing so causes a return of the virus it’s going to be even harder to shut down again. That’s why we elected these people – to lead! I wish them foresight, wisdom, and as much luck as they can get!

My company, which is in the health care distribution field, is being extremely conservative and safety oriented. We’ve lost several employees in the NYC market to the virus and we don’t want to lose anymore. I’m guessing we’ll be working remotely for another few months, at least.

I just hope that our national leadership can provide enough for the have nots to keep us out of the worst trouble.

Hope is not a strategy. Voting? Now, that’s a strategy.