Tag Archives: CNN

Institutional Racism and the Yale Halloween Hallabaloo––KNOCK IT OFF!

On November 12, CNN political commentator Sally Kohn published an article titled, “Don’t be too quick to judge Yale protesters.” In this article, Ms. Kohn defends Yale students who protested against their school’s alleged insensitivity in not banning potentially “offensive” Halloween costumes and the remarks of two of their professors who, in effect, told them to grow up.

Here is my response as posted on CNN.com:


I’ll focus on Ms. Kohn’s use of the words “institutional racism.” In this case, as in the case in Missouri and other campuses, this term is being applied with ferocity. Alternately, you may hear “systemic racism.”

Where, Ms. Kohn, does this “institutional racism” exist and what proof it there of it’s existence?

This is what

This is what “institutional racism” looks like. This is the official institutional welcome a civil rights protester received in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963.

Institutional or systemic racism implies a concerted and intentional effort to deny the rights and privileges of a particular group based on race and color. Is Missouri purposely excluding black students and faculty? Is Yale itself endorsing racist behavior on campus?

Or, in the case of the Yale professors, were they simply acknowledging that the institution plays a limited part in the lives of allegedly adult students and that the students themselves should address legitimate offenses, if and when they occur.

Remember that this entire furor started BEFORE there was any offense!

Should we be upset when, if and where we encounter or witness racism? Certainly, but protests and events of the past several years would have us believe that racism in 2015 is not limited to the few ignorant or entrenched bigots who still judge others based on color. No-the implication is that America is a nation of racists and our current institutions, both government and private, are perpetrating a clear and purposeful plan of discrimination and racial subjugation.

It’s not happening.

Ironically, I just visited the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. historic site in Atlanta. I sat in the Ebeneezer Baptist Church and listened to a recording of one of Dr. King’s most moving sermons. As I viewed the artifacts of Dr. King’s life and the images of people being beaten, hosed and attacked by dogs, I couldn’t help but think about what Dr. King and the people who stood with him would think about today’s movement.

I couldn’t help but think that they would be sickened––that what’s going on today is an affront to the real dangers they faced and the sacrifices they made––which in Dr. King’s case was, of course, the ultimate sacrifice.

Blacks in the 1960s did face “institutional racism.” There were actual courts and law enforcement officials who beat and arrested people because of their color and determined that white murderers, rapists and thugs would not be prosecuted or convicted––if, of course, their victims were black.

There was actual discrimination and segregation––despite the fact that these practices had been outlawed by the federal government and jim-crow was the functional law-of-the-land in much of the country.

There was a great hesitancy to prosecute these offenses on the part of even the President and his Attorney General for fear that to do so would inflame the situation. These leaders who were slow to bring the hammer of justice down were none other than the now revered Kennedy brothers.

THAT was institutional racism.

Dr. King himself was not welcomed as a champion of human rights––not at first. He was investigated by the government as an agitator. Many of his own people cautioned him that the time was not right to bring the issue to a boil––that this would only hurt the black cause.

In his book Why We Can’t Wait, Dr. King recalls the visit of one of Africa’s newly established black heads-of-state who was “called upon by a delegation of prominent American Negroes. When they began reciting to him their long list of grievances, the visiting statesman had waved a weary hand and said:

“‘I am aware of current events. I know everything you are telling me about what the white man is doing to the Negro. Now tell me: What is the Negro doing for himself?’”

Am I blaming the victim for the alleged crime? Am I implying that Dr. King was doing the same?

Absolutely not. What I am saying is that Dr. King’s message was one of responsibility. I am also saying that what today’s students are protesting is completely out of scale.

Dr. King and many others fought and gave their lives, figuratively and literally to end institutional racism and discrimination. Dr. King acknowledged in his time that it was all too easy for white society, and white government in particular, to simply say, “We’ve passed the laws, our work is done.” It wasn’t––the laws were still not being enforced. Racism was still an institutionalized and systemic practice.

The clothes Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wore when he knew he would be jailed at protests. Note the work boots.

The clothes Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wore when he knew he would be jailed at protests. Note the work boots.

He adds, “When he seeks opportunity, he is told, in effect, to lift himself up by his own bootstraps, advice that does not take into account the fact that he is barefoot.”

Dr. King and his peers didn’t stop at stamping their bare feet in protest––they started making shoes.

There was much work to be done––there is much work to be done––but to imply or even insinuate that there is an intentional, purposeful effort to practice and promote “institutional racism” is simply wrong.

If you make this implication, Ms. Kohn, where is your proof?

This effort would require a monumental and secretive plot the scope and scale of which even our most skilled intelligence operatives would be incapable of conducting.

I acknowledge completely that there is still work to do, but this work is societal rather than institutional. I respect the students who protest against racist behavior––but recognize exactly what you are protesting and as Dr. King and his colleagues did, study your adversary.

Are you fighting to educate the ignorant and cultivate greater understanding? To continue Dr. King’s work?

Or––are you tipping at institutional windmills? Are you fighting a phantom that exists more in your minds and hearts than in the offices of your college chancellory?

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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?”

“Ya!”

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.

DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!

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.

However––

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.

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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.

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