“We need to put the American flag down.”

by Jim Bouchard

“We need to put the American flag down.”

Farrakahn BrietbartThat’s what Louis Farrakhan said this week.

He said this during a rally in response to the shootings in Charleston and the uproar over the display of the Confederate battle flag. As more and more people acknowledge that some symbols need to be retired out of respect to current sentiments, people like Farrakhan are using this moment to exploit ignorance and destroy the progress we’ve made as a society …

… which is exactly what the American flag represents.

That’s right––progress.

I don’t have a problem with removing the Confederate flag from public properties. Many believe it’s time we do.

That’s a fair point, but as the argument widens from the display of the Confederate battle flag, let’s get the facts in order.

First––you cannot extract slavery from the argument.

Confederate TroopsThose who defend the public display of the Confederate flag argue that it is a symbol of what they consider the “true” meaning and intent behind Southern secession.

Many in the South, particularly those who did not own slaves and those who opposed slavery, sincerely believed they were defending their native states against an act of Northern aggression. They believed they were defending their rights to conduct their business as sovereign and independent states.

Acknowledging that point of view, you must also acknowledge that the right they were most vigorously defending was specifically the right to own slaves and treat people as property––a right that was, at the time, codified in the Constitution.

Mississippi planter Richard Thompson Archer stated the case plainly in 1859. From CivilWarCauses.org:

“The South is invaded. It is time for all patriots to be united, to be under military organization, to be advancing to the conflict determined to live or die in defence of the God given right to own the African”

In a twist that sounds strange to most people today, the South was ironically pressing for national recognition of the protection of slavery as it was specified in the Constitution, arguably as a compromise during the founding period, while the Northern political sentiment was that slavery was a state issue, and that slavery could not be enforced on a federal level. That argument reached it’s climax during the debate over the enforcement of slavery in “free” states culminating in the infamous “Dred Scot” decision. In that case, the Supreme Court denied a black man’s right to citizenship and representation in court when he sued for his freedom after his owners moved to Wisconsin, which was then a territory where slavery was illegal.

No, you can’t just say that the Confederate flag is strictly a symbol of Southern pride.

Dylann RoofTo too many people, it’s also a symbol of the denial of basic human rights, oppression, violence and unspeakable cruelty.

Even if you allow some latitude in the defense of that flag as a historic symbol, you cannot deny that it became a symbol of bigotry, violence and crime as it was adopted by the Ku Klux Klan and later as an icon of the Neo-Nazi and white supremacy movements.

No matter what the original intent, which was to represent the Army of Northern Virginia, you cannot separate the flag from the racism, violence and murder perpetrated by these organizations and condoned by their supporters.

Back to Farrakhan …

… and he’s not alone. This week CNN anchor Ashleigh Banfield proposed that maybe it’s time to talk about taking down the Jefferson Memorial. After all, she opined, he was a slave owner.

This leads to my second important point––you’ve got to debate this issue in context.

Jefferson lived in a time when slavery was a societal institution, right or wrong. He was raised with the belief that is was not only proper to own slaves, it was his obligation to his family and their business. Many in his time justified slavery under deeply held religious convictions.

Revolutionary leaders were deeply conflicted over this question. Jefferson was deeply conflicted in his own mind and heart. As he struggled with the issue, he wrote:

“The whole commerce between master and slave is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions, the most unremitting despotism on the one part, and degrading submissions on the other.”

Like many leaders of the founding generation, Jefferson could not reconcile his own conduct with the ideology he and others risked their lives to establish. How could he be arguably the iconic voice of freedom, yet at the same time deny freedom to other human beings?

The question sounds ridiculous to our ears. Not so during the establishment of the United States.

The point is that Jefferson was defined by his commitment to freedom, not by his slave ownership, however reprehensible and hypocritical that seems from our vantage point today. In several documents, including his drafts of Constitution of the State of Virginia, Jefferson was obviously moving toward a reconciliation of his beliefs. In these drafts, which became the framework for the Declaration of Independence, he wrote:

“No person hereafter coming into this country shall be held within the same in slavery under any pretext whatever.”

This was still a long way from abolition and you can certainly make the argument that he was moving too slowly––but he and many others of his generation were indeed moving.

Was Jefferson a symbol of bigotry and racism? Or, does he remain a symbol of freedom––even if we acknowledge his flaws in the context of the radical changes and progress he inspired?

Jefferson and his generation left important work undone, but the flag they created to represent their new nation which evolved into the flag we fly today represents, as much as anything, the enormous ideological, cultural and societal changes these men set in motion.

It’s difficult to argue against the case that we’ve still got work to do––but it’s ignorant, divisive and destructive to deny the progress we’ve made.

To do so dishonors and deprecates everyone, including many of us, and many of our ancestors, who worked so hard to treat all human beings with equal respect and dignity and sacrificed so much to transform our ideals into reality.

Farrakhan didn’t stop with the flag …

“White folks march with you because they don’t want you upsetting the city––they don’t give a damn about them nine.”

Mr. Farrakhan, with all due respect––screw you.

America has many faults. As Americans, we still have work to do.

The point is––we do it.

Our flag has flown over some shameful times. It has flown over actions, decisions and events we now regret.

However, unlike any flag before it, our flag represents our commitment as a people to right our wrongs and to create and evolve a society as citizens, not subjects. We don’t have to overthrow despots and tyrants any more. We change ourselves as people and as a society. We learn, grow and evolve––as people and as a society.

We commit our hearts and souls and risk our lives and treasure to promote these changes.

That’s what our flag represents.

You want to burn it?

With what flag, sir, would you replace it?

US Flag Civil War Era

Tagged , , , , , , ,

A message to the Seattle rioters: F*#k you right back.

Seattle RiotsFrom an exchange between protestors at the Seattle May Day riots as recorded by KING 5 TV:

“Don’t f*#k with art. This is a protest against capitalism. Don’t f*#k with art.”

(I guess that captures some of the spirit of the thing. One protester/vandal had just spray painted the anarchy symbol on a sculpture in a public square. The other obviously took offense.)

“Did an artist make it?”

“F*#k you!”

“Were they paid to make it?”


So that’s the issue? If someone is paid to produce a piece of art, that invalidates it and makes it fair game for vandals? Aren’t you the same people who just got done protesting for a $15 minimum wage so you’d get paid “fairly” to flip burgers?

Let’s get to the root of this thing. Every day on May 1st, protesters take to the streets to celebrate the workers movement. The May Day movement originated in a worldwide effort to secure an 8 hour workday and better working conditions to correct abuses from the early days of the Industrial Revolution. From marxist.org:

“May First (1889) was set aside as a day upon which the workers of the world, organized in their political parties and trade unions, were to fight for the important political demand: the 8-hour day.”

By 1907, Lenin writes:

“The role of a truly advanced class, a class really able to rouse the masses to revolution, really capable of saving Russia from decay, is played by the industrial proletariat. This is the task it fulfils by means of its revolutionary strikes. These strikes, which the liberals hate and the liquidators cannot understand, are (as the February resolution of the R.S.D.L.P. puts it) ‘one of the most effective means of overcoming the apathy, despair, and disunion of the agricultural proletariat and the peasantry, … and drawing them into the most concerted, simultaneous, and extensive revolutionary actions.’”

Note Lenin’s discontent with “liberals.” Yes––he does mean those who prefer individual freedom and liberty, or more poignantly––those who refuse to submit to the greater cause of the state. For the record, he had little tolerance for protests against his point of view––and your scholarship under his regime would determine your course of study based on the current needs of that same state.

Freedom. Right?

OK––even giving the benefit of the doubt that the origins of the Russian Revolution started with a sincere desire to redress the abuses of a ruling class against the peasantry––what the hell you protesting in Seattle?

Let’s start with the grade school chants against capitalism, which are seldom if ever supported by substantive facts in these protests. The capitalism you protest against is a far cry from the strict class system of Czarist Russia. Like most of the world at that time, monarchy was still the dominant political structure and where and when democracy was practiced, it was strictly limited in participation to those with money and connections.

Is that what you’re fighting against? Cronyism and nepotism certainly still exists––but you have recourse to check those abuses, where and when you find them. You can vote, you can run for office, you are free to create your own organizations and compete in what is still a relatively free market.

What is the alternative you seek?

“Fairness” is often the battle cry. I find it interesting that the vast majority of participants in these particular riots are college students––usually from middle and upper-middle class homes whose parents have the means to support their educations while they have the time to riot against their distorted image of oppression.

The Soviet ideals you embrace have failed in every attempt. In fact, everywhere Communism and even blended Socialism has been tried––it has failed––miserably.

The only examples where some form of political Marxism has had any sustainable run is when the ideology is imposed, often by brutal force and inhuman forms of violence, discrimination and coercion. The argument is that the “wrong” people gained control or that the ideology was imperfectly implemented.

Still––I’ll again give you the benefit of the doubt. Your chants say you want workers “rights.”

What rights are you deprived?

You have the right to live your life anyway you see fit. Contrary to the way life was under the Communist ideals you idolize, you can choose your career, you can vote for whomever you want, you can run for office without the approval of the state or party and you can even take to the streets to protest and voice your ideas or discontent.

Che-Guevara-Shirt1-394x500 Before you do, study some history. You don’t have to look back too far.

During the Russian Civil War if you disagreed with whoever was in power this week, you’d likely be killed––9 million people were.

Once Stalin “stabilized” the situation, he killed another 20 million––many of whom were forced labor and those who dissented against the Communist brand of “equality” and “fairness.”

Hitler also preached a warped brand of “people’s power” and led what was largely a worker’s revolution. Of course, that infamously led to the execution of some 5 million Jews, who were considered to have an unfair advantage in economic matters. His toll, however, is closer to 66 million when you factor in the human cost of stopping him.

Mao, whose image often appears on May Day protest t-shirts was certainly a champion of fairness and equality––so much so that he murdered 40 million to assure his version of perfect society.

Pol Pot, nearly 2 million. Kim Il Song, 1.6 million. Castro, 30 thousand––and I’m just counting those who advertised that their carnage served the higher purpose of assuring equality and true freedom for “the people.”

And let’s not forget the top selling t-shirt idol of the American Anarchist set, Che Guevara. This mass murderer is the darling of our freedom and equality set. He killed thousands, enslaved tens of thousands and forced over a million people into exile––to assure equality.

You do not have the right to interfere with the peaceful lives of others, destroy their property––private or public or do violence against those with whom you disagree or those charged with protecting their rights––and yours.

You are children. You stamp your feet because you don’t get your way.


Don’t like the way government is run? Run for office.

Don’t like the way business is conducted? Start your own. Want all your workers to receive equal pay, from the CEO to the janitor? DO IT!

(We’ll see how long you put up with that!)

You think everyone is entitled to free medical care and free food? Start an organization and provide it!

Perfect equality of outcome can be attained––by force. Equality of opportunity is a little messy––and it requires a lot more work from you.

You have the right to protest––I’ll even defend that, even as much I disagree with everything you preach and everything you think you stand for.


Your right to protest does not give you the right to destroy my property or attack me physically any more than my right to keep and bear arms gives me the right to shoot you without due provocation.

If you feel your right to protest does give you the right to attack me or destroy property, we’ll just have to see how I might choose to exercise my rights in response.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Chris Rock is a Racist: KNOCK IT OFF!

Chris Rock on white people:

“Owning their actions. Not even their actions. The actions of your dad. Yeah, it’s unfair that you can get judged by something you didn’t do, but it’s also unfair that you can inherit money that you didn’t work for.”

After generations of progress, by all sides- Chris, this is the type of rhetoric that continues to damage race relations and causes many good people to get just plain angry.

Chris RockCommenting on a New Yorker article, Inquisitr.com shared some of Rock’s tirade against white Americans.


“Chris Rock goes on to say that white people aren’t only responsible for their “actions,” but must take responsibility for those of their racist ancestors.”

Well Chris, like many white Americans, I’m sure I did have some racist ancestors, but most of my family were anything but.

As far as any inheritance being “unfair,” well…

My mother’s family were Polish immigrants. When they arrived in America during the Great Immigration, they were treated, to use your parlance, like niggers.

They were discriminated against in every way imaginable. My mother grew up in urban tenements. I remember her talking about the first time they had an apartment with running water- until then the water was carried up three flights of stairs from a common well shared by several buildings.

Most of my Polish ancestors changed their names upon arriving in America. If they had a “ski” or a “wicz” at the end of their names, they were turned away from decent homes, jobs and schools.

The man I knew as my grandfather was my mother’s stepdad- her birth father having died from a heart attack working in Connecticut sweatshops, no doubt because he inherited so much from his immigrant parents.

My grandfather did inherit some money- which was taken away by Russian communists before he left Poland after the War, where he had spent his last couple of years as a POW in a German concentration camp.

He was a genius of a man and a genuine chess champion- but his name and his poor English limited him to a job operating a furnace in the Stanley tool factory.

My father’s side descends from French-Canadian stock. Many of them came to America to escape persecution of Francophones common in Canada for generations. Anglo-speaking Canadians in fact passed laws to convert French speakers and eradicate their culture.

My distant cousin, Maurice “The Rocket” Richard was a famous hockey player- who also found himself, somewhat by circumstance, as the symbolic leader of a civil rights movement in Canada to fight for equal pay, opportunity and treatment for French speaking citizens.

Some branches of my French family arrived before the Civil War. I’ve traced several to service in several Maine regiments during the Civil War, where they fought, as far as they were concerned, to end slavery and free America blacks.

Most of my French family settled in Northern Maine where they worked largely as potato farmers, many of them tenant farmers. As the potato business dwindled in Maine, many of these ancestors, whose inheritances were not what Mr. Rock would imagine, left to work the factories of Massachusetts and Connecticut. My father- obviously having squandered the riches of his inheritance, was part of that migration. That’s how he ended up in Connecticut and how he met my mother.


My parents were the decedents of people who struggled for generations to overcome prejudice and discrimination. They started their life together with absolutely no money- their ancestors having struggled for generations to simply survive.

Mr. Rock…

What great inheritance are you speaking of?

What sins did my ancestors commit- especially those who gave their lives to end slavery?

Of course, that’s ancient history. Let’s talk more about my mother.

I wasn’t raised as a racist. My mother taught us that you judge people by their actions and character, not by their color, nationality or religious beliefs. She taught us that we were solely responsible for our own destiny and that the past, however terrible, was just that…


From this past my first real job was working in my father’s construction company- a business he built out of 18 hour days where weekends were largely for the weak. After that I worked as a pipe fitter in a shipyard building nuclear submarines.

Yes- jobs reserved for the privileged. I’ve worked hard for every dollar I’ve ever had and for most of my life I’ve had precious few above and beyond the bare necessities. Still- I’ve had a nice life so far and it’s getting better every day.

Mr. Rock, I am not a wealthy entertainer, but I do not begrudge you a nickel of your money. Frankly, most of the time I think you’re hilarious- even when you’re making white people the target of your humor. I’m a true believer in the free market and if the market says your work is worth millions- so be it.

I don’t know your past; maybe you did work menial jobs like I did and like my ancestors did. I do know that now you enjoy a life of privilege most of us can only imagine. 

I do, however, resent your characterization of me and my ancestors. You dishonor the abolitionists, the civil rights activists and warriors who sacrificed to assure fair human treatment for everyone, regardless of race. You show flagrant disrespect for those of us who have stood up for friends and strangers when they were mistreated or abused because of their color- and those of us who continue to do so.

And as far as our generation paying for the sins of the past- that sir, is outrageous on the face of it.

I do not know first hand the challenges of growing up as a black man in America. I did have friends who experienced the race riots of the 1960s. I do remember when there was still Jim Crow and overt, legal discrimination. I remember the integrations of schools and the busing riots. I have friends that did suffer under those conditions. I even have friends who had crosses burned on their front yards.

I am just a few years older than you are- you may have missed some of this action.

My generation and generations of white Americans before fought, many died and many more sacrificed and risked their lives and livelihoods to eradicate institutional racism and end discrimination. Many of us continue that fight…

…but frankly, many of us are sick of hearing that we’re still part of the problem.

So as to your assertions that all white people are racist, that all white people are responsible for the lingering effects of slavery and institutionalized discrimination- that all white people are still accountable for the difficult conditions still experienced by some black people, conditions you seem to have transcended…

We’ve paid the price, and many of our ancestors paid the bill before us…paid in full.

Tagged , , , ,

How the Patriots cheated the Seahawks out of the Super Bowl

Brady 02 No doubt we’ll hear that and worse this week.

The problem with being a rabid sports fan is that you’re often forced to defend your team, which, when you think about it, is kind of ridiculous. I don’t play for the New England Patriots, I don’t have anything to do with their coaching and I’m quite sure that removing my hat did not assure that Tom Brady would bring the Pats back from 10 down…

…even though that’s exactly what happened…and I also took my hat off just before Brady rallied the Pats and Adam Vinatierri sealed the deal in ’01.

“It’s not weird if it works,” right?

Writers, pundits and fans will debate the outcome of Super Bowl XLIX for weeks- at least until they can find some mysterious conspiracy to explain how the Pats somehow cheated the Seahawks out of their destiny.

The Patriots won because of one thing, and it wasn’t the psychic abilities of un-drafted rookie Malcolm Butler. The Pats won because no matter what adversity they face, they live and die as a team.

The Hawks’ Bruce Irvin sums it up:

“I don’t understand how you don’t give it to the best back in the league and not even the 1-yard line. We were on the half-yard line. And we throw a slant. I don’t what the offense had going on, what they saw. I just don’t understand.” (The News Tribune)

Irvin was ejected from the game in the final seconds for starting a brawl when he should have showed some class in defeat.

He wasn’t the only one with issues about the Seahawks last minute strategy. Several Seahawks players voiced their displeasure with their coaching staff and the decision to throw that final pass instead of jamming Marshawn Lynch into the endzone.

The worst was probably Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell who was quoted as saying receiver Ricardo Lockette could have gone harder to the ball to make the catch. While true, it’s not something you want to say about one of your players after the last meaningful play of the season- at least not on national television.

The Pats have last two trips to The Game ended with similar last minute disappointment. Twice Eli Manning and his Giants tipped the scales with last second heroics to come from behind.

Did the Patriots criticize throw their teammates and coaches under the bus? No- they praised their opponent, went home to rest and came back the next year to do their jobs.

This game could have gone either way…

Frankly, even if the Pats lost, I would be saying it was one of the most exciting Super Bowls in history. If you doubt my sincerity, ask my wife, who has become a more intense Pats fan than I am, which is really saying something. I really pissed her off- twice, when I said that after each of the Giants’ wins.

The Pats stood together despite a psychotic hatred of all things Patriot. They rallied around one another while the NFL manufactured what is arguably the most egregious load of excrement ever dumped on a team before the Super Bowl in the form of Deflate-gate. They stood together after the embarrassment in Kansas City as the Boston sports press was hanging up Brady’s spikes, predicting the end of The Dynasty and proclaiming that Belichick’s mojo had finally run it’s course.

Most of all, they took the Seahawks’ best body blows and once again rallied from behind, just as they’d done several times this year.

Butler Pick 02Now as for Malcolm Butler…

Butler wrapped up the game in more ways than one. He admitted after the game that he knew that throw was coming in his way.

How could he possibly know this? More spy-cams? More Beli-cheat tactics?


Study. Practice. Discipline.

Butler knew that throw was coming because he recognized the formation and the shift. The Pats had practiced this exact scenario dozens of times. They understood what Pete Carroll was doing- arguably even better than Carroll himself did.

I’m going to credit Butler not just for the interception, but for his embodiment of the never-quit attitude of this year’s Patriots- and it came on the play that put Seattle in position to win the game.

Butler fought Jermaine Kearse for Russell Wilson’s deep ball that highlighted Seattle’s potential game winning drive. Kearse won the battle and made arguably the best catch of the season.

At that point, all Kearse had to do was roll into the end zone. Of course that would have left Brady, Gronk and the boys two minutes to produce their own heroics, but instead Butler stayed with the play even after he was beat and kept Kearse from scoring the go-ahead TD.

Jim BullsIn football, it ain’t over ’til it’s over…and Malcolm Butler showed that not once, but twice.

The casual fan or the Super Sunday Only group will no doubt label the Pats lucky. Those who have played this great game, and those who know that football is game of inches where seconds last forever, appreciate the tenacity that guarantees Butler a place in Patriots history.

For those of us whose love of all things Patriots started long before The Dynasty- for those of us who proudly wore Pat Patriot gear and still have a warm place for the red jerseys, this one has a certain feeling of vindication about it. I won’t say it means the same as ’01…

…but it’s pretty damn close.

The haters will continue to hate. I’ll just leave you with the rallying cry that spread among Patriots fans over the past couple of weeks…

“You hate us…’cause you ain’t us.”

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Cowardice of the highest magnitude – The Islamist terror attack on the Charlie Hebdo magazine staff

“Three black-clad gunmen shouting “Allahu Akbar!” stormed the Paris offices of a satirical publication known for lampooning Islam Wednesday, killing 12, including its editor, three political cartoonists and a police officer whose cold-blooded murder at close range was captured on a disturbing video.” ~FOX News

CharlieHedboThree obviously well-drilled cowards wearing masks, body armor and heavily armed with Kalashnikov automatic rifles attacked the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical magazine, to avenge the magazine’s depiction of their beloved prophet in a political cartoon.

That is three armed commandos attacking about a dozen, unarmed and unsuspecting citizens during a business meeting.

Cowards. Barbarians. Murderers. Any other description is inadequate.

As they fled, their final act of cowardice…

“Video footage posted to social media showed armed gunmen running through the streets of Paris, shooting with automatic weapons and shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’. According to an eye-witness, one of the gunmen shouted: ‘The Prophet is avenged.’” ~The Independent, UK


The most radical elements of Islam call for the death of anyone who offends “The Prophet.” From the website Islamqa.com…

“The scholars are unanimously agreed that a Muslim who insults the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) becomes a kaafir and an apostate who is to be executed.”

The issue doesn’t seem as clear if the offending party is not a Muslim, or want to repent for his offense:

“But they differed as to whether his repentance should be accepted in this world and whether that means he is no longer subject to the sentence of execution.

“Maalik and Ahmad were of the view that it should not be accepted, and that he should be killed even if he has repented.” ~http://islamqa.info/en/22809

It should be noted that the article I quote justifies the killing of a non-Muslim as an appropriate response to an offense against the Prophet.

This is NOT the prevailing view of leading contemporary Muslim scholars.

Just as most Christians would consider it wrong to stone a prostitute to death, it seems the recommended responses to blasphemous cartoons in our age range from ignoring the offense to taking legal action appropriate to the society in which one lives.

Anas Halayel, a leader of CAIR in Arizona, writes in MuslimMatters.org…

“In essence, the Qur’an is telling us that when it specifically comes to the issue of mocking the Prophet [SAW], which is exactly the issue that we are dealing with today. Don’t take matters in your own hands, rather, God will take care of those who mock the Prophet.” (emphasis added)

Dr. Zakir Naik, one of the world’s most popular Muslim leaders identifies 6 levels of response to an offense to the Prophet. The 6th, which includes violent force agains another person, kidnapping or murder, is, in his opinion, strictly forbidden.

According to leading Muslim scholars and the Qur’an, appropriate responses top people who insult or offend the Prophet is to ignore them, attempt to reason with them, boycott their business and seek legal or political redress…

…not to murder them.

“Be tolerant, command what’s right, pay no attention to foolish people” [7:199]

So how can anyone justify the murder of 12 human beings for their alleged insult to the Prophet Muhammad?

You can’t.

It’s an act of abject cowardice and murder. Period.


Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Racist America – Fact or Friction?

michael brownDarren Wilson may not have been indicted last week, but once again America is indicted- for being racist.

Is America racist?

Was the shooting of Michael Brown an example of a systemic bigotry what we simply cannot overcome?

No- and no…

I won’t debate the facts of the Michael Brown case specifically. If you’re like most Americans, your mind is made up. If you’re the average person, it’s also likely that you have not read any of the grand jury disclosures, and unless you have, we’d only be arguing intractable emotions and feelings rather than facts.

I will first question the motives of an individual, Officer Darren Wilson…

To presume that Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown because he was black is to assume that he would not have shot a white man under the same conditions.

After extensive grand jury investigation and countless hours of media scrutiny, there is not one shred of fact or even innuendo to suggest that Wilson, as some allege, was a bigot. Nor is there one scrap of evidence that indicates, as some shouted after the incident, that Wilson “just wanted to shoot a black man,” or anyone else for that matter.

What we have here is not institutional racism, it’s a systemic failure of leadership…

I work with kids like Michael Brown as a volunteer in my state’s juvenile detention program. Not the 12 year old Michael Brown whose picture dominates the media, but rather the 18 year Michael Brown who attacked a police officer after committing a petty theft at a convenience store.

And yes, his background is relevant.

Young people black and white embrace the thug culture, especially in impoverished areas where they feel victimized and hopeless. They gain more credibility with peers by defying authority than by respecting authority.

I witness this defiance of authority on a regular basis. Do these kids have a reason for their attitude? Of course they do- they were taught to behave this way.

Leadership starts at home…

Nearly any leader who even suggests that these issues might be resolved by first focusing on the family is immediately painted as naive, or very often as a traitor to the African-American cause.

Anyone who suggests that the disproportionate percentage of single mothers, absent fathers, drug abuse and domestic abuse in these communities may be a more important cause of higher crime and arrest than race is vilified and tagged as racist.

People rightfully cite data that indicates a serious problem; blacks are arrested in numbers disproportionate to their numbers in the general population…

…but is this indicative of racism?

Not long ago you could make this argument.

In a case that has shamefully been associated with the Michael Brown incident, a young black man named Emmett Till was kidnapped, then brutally tortured and murdered by two white men in Mississippi in 1955 for flirting with a white store clerk.

In a sham trial an all white jury acquitted his murderers, Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam, of all charges.

Racism? Of the worst kind…

The Tills case ignited the furor for justice and civil rights all over America. We fought for years to eradicate institutional racism from our society- and we did it.

Separate but equal…Racist?

Yes…and made illegal.

Discrimination in housing and employment…Racist?

Yes…and made illegal.

Voting restrictions…Racist?

Yes…and made illegal.

Arresting people based solely on their race…Racist?


My mother taught me to judge a person by his character, not his color. Inspired by Martin Luther King and other leaders, an entire generation picked up this banner and made sure that from those times forward, not only would institutional racism be eradicated, but that individual racism would be openly condemned and opposed.

You cannot legislate away bigotry, but you can make it illegal to discriminate based on racial prejudice…

…and we have.

Leaders who continue to beat the drum of inherent racism are ignoring another significant data set. Ferguson, like many of the communities experiencing continued issues involving race, are populated by a black majority.

In the wake of the Michael Brown shooting, many Ferguson residents expressed extreme dissatisfaction with the lack of black police officers on their police force. Others condemned their largely white representation in city government.

Ferguson is 65% black!

People have a right to be upset, but what should they be doing about it?

Just a few days ago I listened to an interview with a young man from St. Louis- I did not catch his name. He identified himself as a documentary filmmaker.

He talked about the lack of black representation in the Ferguson PD and in city hall. The reporter then asked why there was such a low voter turnout among blacks in Ferguson.

He answered that black voters felt disenfranchised, largely because white politicians largely ran unopposed. African-American voters simply felt- what’s the use? He said there are simply no good choices!

This young man was obviously intelligent, articulate and charismatic.

No choices? All I could think of was…

…Why aren’t YOU running for office?

If this were 1955, it would still be true that blacks would be prohibited from holding office in some communities. I have friends that still remember when they couldn’t use the same restrooms as whites!

It might also be true in 1955 that even if a community had a black majority of voters, those people would likely be intimidated into voting with the white minority or simply turned away at the polls without recourse.

This is not 1955. If a black person would run for office in Ferguson today, it might be impossible for a white candidate to win- unless of course, race were not an issue.

If meaningful leadership would emerge from the black community in Ferguson, it seems likely that the entire city government could be populated with black officials. They could then hire a black chief of police and fill the rest of the department with African-American officers…

…if, of course, race, or more specifically racism, were the only issue.

And as for white officials and leaders, stop thinking that you can solve all the problems in black communities!

This is not because you’re inherently racist, but simply because of the fact that while racism is not the problem, the racial composition of a community is still an important consideration.

One disturbing factoid making the rounds to support the idea that we’re still inherently racist is a study showing that within 3 months, most human babies demonstrate a preference for other human beings of a similar color.

Of course they do. It’s natural. Not too many generations ago- this was simply part of our survival mechanism.

Human beings are inherently tribal, this is not new information. We tend to trust and bind ourselves more strongly to people who look like us, speak the same language and as we develop, those who share the same fundamental cultural beliefs.

That does not mean we’re racist- it means we’re human.

This trick of evolution does not give you license to treat people badly because they don’t look exactly like you. It does not mean it’s right to discriminate against people who speak differently or act differently or believe differently.

Malcolm X once said;

“We are not anti-white. But we don’t have time for the white man. The white man is on top already, the white man is the boss already… he has first-class citizenship already. So you are wasting your time talking to the white man. We are working on our own people.”

Malcolm X was vilified by white people in his time, largely because of his militant tactics. In pre-civil rights America, was peaceful demonstration working? Was he not simply employing the same tactics to assert rights for blacks that the founders used in fighting Great Britain for theirs?

But we live in post civil-rights America…

Black communities need black leaders, not because they’re black, but because we need leaders who live and work in those communities- leaders who know the community and the authentic concerns of the people.

White leaders should not impose solutions, but rather support solutions brought forth from those communities wherever and whenever viable leaders rise to the task. If you are white and want to make a difference in a black community- then move into that community, earn the respect of the people and work from there.

Continued attempts to impose solutions from outside the community simply reinforce the same mistakes made, however well-intended, throughout the 1960s. As black leaders stepped up and organized their communities, they were largely discredited and ignored. Funding and support went instead to white activists and organizations working in black communities. Is it any wonder that some black leaders responded with militant activism and others became the leaders of gangs rather than than mayors and city councilmen?

We will never resolve black-white differences as long as we fail to respect those differences. Nor will we resolve those differences unless we are willing to fully acknowledge our sameness…

…our sameness as human beings.

We solve problems together only when we acknowledge our commonality and respect our differences.

Do we still have a race issue in America? Obviously.

Do we still have racism in America? Of course we do- and always will.

Is this racism promoted, accepted or tolerated?


…not because there is no bigotry, but rather because there we no longer allow racism to infect our institutions and when it does, we do not hesitate to destroy the infection.

Ultimately, the important question is no longer whether there is systemic racism in America at large. There is not.

The important question is-

Are you a racist?

I am not.

“I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it’s for or against.” ~Malcolm X

This is leadership…

Tagged , , , , , , ,

The Great Ebola Panic

B_hazardWhy all the panic?

Weeks ago the CDC said that Ebola was acute, but not extremely contagious. It couldn’t be transmitted through “casual” contact. Then they said they said it could be transmitted by contact with surfaces touched by a contagious patient up to 72 hours after contact.

They first said it took 2 to 21 days for symptoms to develop- now it’s up to 48 days. First there was no danger contracting Ebola on a plane was only remotely possible, now they’re monitoring all 132 passengers on the flight the Dallas nurse took. The CDC first announced that no-fly restrictions were not only unnecessary, but could even diminish our ability to contain the virus in Africa. Now they’re considering a no-fly list for American citizens who have worked with Ebola patients…

…folks- I am usually the first person to debunk any conspiracy theories, and I’ll continue that stand.

I don’t believe this is a government plot against black people, or a plot to reduce the American population- or a plot to provide an excuse for martial law and the installation of a dictatorship. These ideas are absolutely ridiculous; not because they’re not possible, but because the federal government is simply incompetent and incapable of containing and executing such an intricate plot…

…so stop the foolish worry and focus on the issue.

What is evident is that the federal bureaucracy is simply too big and too complex to respond to threats like this efficiently. Leadership is hobbled by a continuing partisanship that prioritizes political turf wars and saving face above prudent action and reasonable response.

What’s happening here is evident of the failure of leadership on the federal level- and neither ruling party is exempt.

Want to calm the masses?

A) Tell the truth- the whole truth and nothing but the truth. We can handle it.

B) Do your freaking job! One of the few areas that it is prudent to act on the federal level is the operation of the CDC. However, instead of making excuses for being unprepared- difficult to accept given the level of confidence you all expressed in the beginning of this situation, get your act together and develop a plan. Now.

C) Stop moving the goals posts! What is reported as fact one day is modified the next. Ebola is not new. If you want us to believe that you’re being forthcoming, refer to item “A.”

D) Institute a reasonable quarantine for people entering the US from highly infected areas- before they get on a plane to come here. This is not racist or insensitive- it’s reasonable and prudent. It’s not about hating people, it’s about keeping as many people healthy as possible.

To Congress and the President:

If there was ever a time to put aside party politics and get to work, it is now. Knock off the turf battles and stop worrying about your reputations- you’ve only got a 16% approval rating- they’re as bad as they’re going to get.

And as for the excuses that travel bans or other similar actions will harm the economies and people of other nations- first of all, no it won’t. Their economies will be harmed much more if an outbreak here diminishes our capability to respond and send help. Their people are at far greater risk if our resources are tied up fighting an epidemic here.

Stop the bickering, finger pointing and reactive rhetoric. Just put aside your differences, lock yourselves in a room and get the job done.

Want to stop the panic? Start trusting us and stop changing the story every 24 hours…


Tagged , , , , ,

On Robin Williams, Suicide and Wanting to Help

ID-100173636All this week social media has been inundated with well-intended gestures from people sincerely wanting to help.

“There’s always hope! If you’re ever feeling like you want to end it all, please reach out- I’m here!”

Or some such foolishness…

Knock it off!

Yes- I said foolishness.

I’m all for you being available to friends in need, especially when it comes to suicide, but play close attention…

Unless you’re a trained professional, the only thing you should be saying when a desperate friend actually reaches out is:

“Let me help you find some help.”

If you’ve never been seriously depressed, addicted or you’ve never actually considered taking your own life, you may not understand what I’m about to say. I’m talking from experience.

When you are close to suicide and you reach out to friends, this is what you’ll typically hear- and none of it helps:

“There’s always hope!”

Oh ya? If I thought that I wouldn’t be sitting here with a knife to my throat!

“Have you ever thought about how much you mean to the people who care about you?”

Well, I’ve thought plenty about how little I mean to them and how they might be better off without me!

“Suicide is stupid.”

F*#k you.

“Nothing can be so terrible that it’s worth taking your own life.”

Walk a mile in my shoes.

Depression is a medical condition…

A suicidal mindset is a critical symptom that requires rapid professional intervention. If someone shares suicidal thoughts with you, or you suspect someone you know is that desperate, here’s what you can do that will help:

#1 Listen…

Don’t judge, don’t offer trite self-help platitudes. Don’t share insipid positive thinking quotes or stories about someone you know who once thought about suicide who then went on to great success. Yup, heard ‘em all.

Most of all, don’t tell this person you know how they feel- even if you do. You may have shared the experience, but not the specific circumstances.

Just listen.

#2 Tell them you don’t have an answer…

Trust me- you don’t.

In an acute state of depression, most of the answers that make sense to you have no resonance with the person suffering. Logic is not part of the equation at this point, you’re dealing with someone who is operating from a primal state of emotion.

It’s OK to admit you don’t know what to do. Being there is enough- and probably already diffused the situation for the moment.

At this point, you may be feeling hopeless- as if there is nothing you can do.

There is…

#3 Connect this person with a professional…

This can be difficult and you’re going to have to be strong. Say that the best possible thing you can do is to help make a phone call.

Call someone this person trusts- you can start with their personal physician. Call any number of available suicide hotlines- ask for available resources in your area.

You can offer to drive them to the appointment. You can sit with them while they make a call to the hotline. You can offer to be available to listen or help them get professional help.

You need to understand that any and each of these supportive gestures can be significant and probably much more effective than trying to play the psychologist.

Robin Williams…

Oh ya, my headline promised I’d talk about Robin Williams.

Here’s what I posted in response to the social media onslaught…

Lot’s of angst and passion about Robin Williams today. Suffice it to say that unless you’ve been there, it’s difficult to understand, maybe even impossible.

Having been there and nearly done that I’ll say- don’t judge, don’t even try to understand- if you’re not there just be grateful. If you can reach out to someone in pain, do it- but don’t expect miracles and don’t feel guilty if you can’t change a mind set on the path of destruction. Strange as it sounds, that path sometimes feels like the path of peace.

And don’t condemn Robin as selfish. His life was his, not yours. He shared some of it with you- for that be grateful. That’s a gift, not an obligation. Unless you’re a personal friend, you weren’t there for him- that’s life…and he didn’t live for you…that’s just the fact.

We sometimes allow ourselves a false sense of intimacy with people in the spotlight. Just enjoy the good moments Robin gave you and do the best you can for you and yours.

Photo of woman courtesy of Marin and FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tagged , , , , , ,

The Fast Food Strike – KNOCK IT OFF!

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????It’s finally here- fast food workers across the nation are taking to the streets, holding signs and petitioning for an increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

To what end?

Patrick M. Sheridan writing for CNNMoney highlighted an example of the plight of a man trying to support a family on minimum wage:

“Frankie Tisdale, a 26-year-old worker from a KFC in Brooklyn said he will join the strike with fellow workers next week.

“Tisdale lives in his father’s house in Brooklyn with his girlfriend and two young children. He earns $8 an hour and works between 14 and 23 hours a week.

“With less than $200 a week, he sometimes has to choose between buying food for the family and taking his kids’ clothes for a wash to the laundromat. He said it’s too expensive to eat at the KFC where he works so he never does. ‘Everything costs more. Why can’t my pay go up?’ Tisdale says.”

Because you are not producing more.

I’m sorry Frankie, but that’s the cold, hard truth…

For the record, I have no problem with workers striking or protesting for higher wages. If a group of employees wants to pressure their employers and air their grievances by striking- more power to them.

I have several issues with mandated minimum wages.

Wages on mean rise with productivity. Every rise in income in America came on the crest of a period of increased productivity as a nation.

You can attempt to mandate wages- but you cannot mandate an increase in wages and protect jobs unless you are willing to also mandate employment. In nations that have attempted this, most notably the Soviet Union and Greece, the government must subsidize employers for excess labor.

Eventually, the system collapses under it’s own weight. It’s simple- cash needed to subsidize low productivity jobs at higher wages outstrips the revenues produced by that same labor.

Now specifically to Sheridan’s example…

If you intended to raise sympathy, you should have featured someone other than Mr. Tisdale!

Tisdale is sadly typical of the employee trying to “raise a family” on minimum wage, which, as a point of fact, is a very small percentage of all minimum wage earners.

Tisdale is living with his father and his girlfriend- note “girlfriend,” not wife, and the two children they produced without the means to provide for them.

To make matters worse, he’s working an average of only 14 to 23 hours a week. How many people can care for a family on 23 hours a week at any average job?

You can choose to address this issue on an institutional or societal level and simply mandate that employers pay more…

…or you can look at this on an individual level, which is much more beneficial.

First of all, the bracket that includes minimum wage earners is extremely volatile. The vast majority of people earning minimum wage today will be earning far more in less than four years.

Despite how it might appear on the nightly news, only about 5% of all hourly workers and 3% of all workers employed in the U.S. earn minimum wage.

If you’re currently working for minimum wage, there’s a very good chance that you’re single, under 25 working part time and still part of a family that makes more than $66,000 a year.

There’s also a very good chance that you’re a student. 62% of all minimum wage workers are enrolled in high school, college or vocational training.

That’s great! The single most important factor determining your earning capacity is your education, followed closely by work experience and job performance…

…which is exactly what minimum wage jobs are designed for.

These are jobs- not careers.

Employers don’t want to condemn you to minimum wage either. They know full well that people stuck at or near minimum wage are not satisfied, engaged or productive employees for very long.

I recently spoke with a representative from a growing restaurant chain who has no problem attracting good employees at minimum wage- as a part-time job or a step toward higher wages.

When I asked him about his take on the minimum wage debate, he basically told me that the math was very simple. In his chain, which is typical, the margin of profit to the franchisee is about 11 cents on every dollar. Let’s just round it to 10%.

A hike in minimum wage to even $9 an hour would be a 24% increase in labor costs.

The results?

Fewer hirings at the entry level and higher prices to the consumer.

It’s just math…

My focus is not on societal change. I’m getting too old to swing my sword at windmills.

My focus is on the individual…

What can YOU do- as an individual, to escape the trap of minimum wage?

#1 Stay in school… Your education is still the greatest determinant to your earning power. The vast majority of all minimum wage earners lack or have not yet earned a high school diploma.

#2  Don’t have kids…until you can afford them. The vast majority of people trying to support children on minimum wage are single mothers who had their first child under the age of 20.

#3  Develop your talents and abilities… Your earning power is determined by your value to your employer.

It really is that simple…

Or- you can pick up a sign and strike.

Just remember- no matter how high they set the minimum wage, it will always be the minimum.

Don’t settle for minimum- at any rate.

ThatBlackBeltGuy dot Com Banner 1403 460

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Free College as a Fundamental Human Right – KNOCK IT OFF!

Free College

by Jim Bouchard

“‘We’re here today because we believe that public higher education is not a privilege. It is a fundamental human right,’ said Meaghan LaSala, one of the students who organized the event.” ~Portland Press Herald, April, 10, 2014

That’s a quote from a protest over cuts at the University of Southern Maine. It’s a cry that’s being raised all over the country.

Public higher education is a fundamental human right?

Well- no. It’s not.


Your “fundamental,” formerly described as “inalienable” rights are those rights granted to you by God or nature- whatever you believe. The key distinguishing factor is that inalienable rights are the universally recognized rights of birth that any freedom loving person agrees are not subject to debate, approval or distribution by any other man…

…or his representative government.

Those rights are brilliantly articulated in the Declaration of Independence. These “fundamental” rights are brutally limited in their number- and amazingly limitless in their expression:

  • Life
  • Liberty
  • Pursuit of happiness

Following that, laws were crafted to assure that these rights would never be infringed or restricted by a central authority, despot or tyrant. The “Bill of Rights” specifically protects these rights.

There have never been new rights constructed by our government- until recently.

Even voting rights amendments did not grant new rights. They simply asserted that those people once denied their natural rights would never be denied again. Once again- the government, which was still operating under some semblance of constitutional restraint, simply affirmed the principle of inalienable rights.

We seem to be entering the age of creating new “rights”. That’s a big problem.

First of all, education is NOT a right…at any level…

You may argue this point, but education is not a right.

We’ve agreed as a community that public education should be provided up to grade 12 and that you must attend school until age 16. All we’ve done over time is to assure that if public education is available to anyone- it’s available to everyone. Note that this applies only to “public” education.

Once you graduate high school- you’re on your own. If you really believe in freedom and inalienable rights, this is as it should be.

Here’s why…

Notice that in a free society, your “inalienable” rights don’t impose a cost on anyone else. It really is that simple.

Your life doesn’t necessitate the deprivation of anyone else’s life. Your freedom does not infringe on the freedom of others. Your pursuit of happiness should not interfere with anyone else’s pursuit…

…and there’s the problem.

Unfortunately, the word “free” is now confused with freedom.

Beyond a “fundamental” educational level, you start adult life as a free individual. You’re free to pursue your own ambitions, explore your own talents and to trade your abilities on the open market to build the life you choose.

Your individual expression of freedom starts to get expensive.

It costs money to build and operated public colleges. If you want to choose your pursuit- to study whatever makes you happy, there is a cost.

How can you justify the position that your pursuit is any more worthy than anyone else’s?

Why should the resources of any other free person be confiscated to finance your individual pursuit of happiness?

Again- as a community we’ve decided to invest in programs that benefit the community at large. The Constitution allows that the States and the People are free to make those choices.

Usually, the community invests in higher education that will directly benefit the people in that community. That’s why so many public colleges and universities were created to train teachers, engineers, agriculturalists, nurses and other vocations.

If your pursuit of happiness works in harmony with the needs of the community, you have access to subsidized education. Take full advantage.

If your pursuit of happiness is a little more esoteric, well…it is, after all, your pursuit.

Once you abdicate financial responsibility for your pursuit to the public- or to the government, you also abdicate your freedom of choice. If higher education is a right- and that right comes at a cost.

Who grants the RIGHT to higher education?

The entity providing the means of support dictates the terms. If the government grants you the right to higher education, then the government dictates what you should study.

Is that really what you’re after?

Do you have a RIGHT to fully subsidized higher education?

No more than I have a right to publicly subsidized guitar lessons. Why is my pursuit of happiness any less worthy than yours?

Be careful. Answer that question honestly and you’ll meet the dark and dangerous specter that struck fear in the hearts of our founders.


Jim Bouchard is a speaker and author of THINK Like a BLACK BELT. Learn more about Jim at ThatBlackBeltGuy.com…

ThatBlackBeltGuy dot Com Banner 1403 460

Photo courtesy of StockImages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.