Tag Archives: News

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?

Yes…and MADE ILLEGAL!

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?

No…

…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…

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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…

…KNOCK IT OFF!

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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.

KNOCK IT OFF!

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…

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Photo courtesy of StockImages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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The Attack on Christmas: KNOCK IT OFF!

Santa Womanby Jim Bouchard

If you’re one of those Grinches who wants to eradicate Christ from Christmas…

…KNOCK IT OFF!

I don’t identify myself as Christian and I frankly don’t give a damn whether you are or not. Still, I acknowledge that Christmas is about the baby Jesus, I enjoy the spirit of the season and I’m definitely not offended if you want to wish me a Merry Christmas.

First of all, Christmas is about Christ. End of story.

Christians celebrate Christmas to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ. The holiday has, over time, come to represent the spirit of charity and giving so essential to those who practice authentic Christian principles.

Merry Christmas is a warm greeting intended only to express compassion in the true spirit of the season.

If you’re offended by any of that, just don’t be.

Next- there is no constitutional basis to prohibit Christmas displays or celebrations in public places.

The separation of church and state as a constitutional issue is a myth. Whether you want to acknowledge it or not, the United States was founded primarily by a group of Christian men who instilled the values and principles of their various sects in nearly every area of law and government.

Being extremely intelligent and farsighted individuals, they also, in order to protect their own religious freedom, codified the free expression of religion for all American citizens.

The 101 version of the separation of church and state comes from a series of debates and letters, largely credited to Thomas Jefferson, who advocated for a strong “wall of separation” between any church and the federal government to avoid the establishment of a state religion- something the founders knew about and feared greatly.

The modern expansion of the idea of a wall of separation started with a lawsuit (Everson vs. Board of Education) over the state of New Jersey using tax money to pay for school bus rides for kids going to private, and particularly parochial schools. At that time, the SCOTUS ruled that the 1st Amendment had not been violated- because transportation was paid for all kids regardless of religious affiliation and because state, not federal funding was involved.

Putting up a Christmas tree, or even a nativity display, doesn’t violate the 1st Amendment in any way shape or form. It would be a violation if Congress ordered you to put up a Christmas tree.

Here’s an interesting viewpoint from Penn Jillette…

I find it particularly interesting that so many groups want to put up purposely offensive displays in public places simply to make a statement in what they perceive as the interest of fairness. This is why we now have Wiccan holiday displays alongside Jewish and Christian symbols of the season.

Frankly- I don’t give a damn if the Wiccans or the Church of Satan want to put up holiday displays, but to do so simply as an attack on their Christian neighbors is, well…

…just plain stupid.

There is no traditional Wiccan observation of the birth of Christ and I could not find any particular Satanic holiday centered on gift giving and acts of charity. If those of you who worship goats, Pagan gods or Old Scratch himself want to join the party, so be it.

If you’re just trying to ruin someone else’s fun- get a life! (And your own holiday! Maybe we’ll enjoy that one too!)

To Christians…if you’re offended that someone doesn’t believe what you believe…KNOCK IT OFF!

You’re preaching tolerance, love extended to all mankind, etc., etc. Well then, get on with it!

I’m not saying you shouldn’t defend yourself against direct attacks, but nobody is throwing you into the Coliseum with a bunch of lions here. If some atheist wants to spend his own money on a billboard that proclaims Christmas is a myth, just get over it! (I was going to say put up your own billboards- but you’ve been doing that for quite a while!)

You’re not going to persuade that guy to believe any more than he’s going to persuade you not to. You’ve got better things to do.

If you believe…then believe.

And finally to the Atheists (capitalization intentional in the spirit of fairness)…

If there is no God- what the hell is the big problem?

Atheism has become to some a cult as fervent as some of the most extreme examples of fundamentalist Christianity or radicalized Islam. Your rights to not-believe are secured by the 1st Amendment; why can’t you just leave the God fearing peoples be?

I’m the first one to get aggravated, though not necessarily offended, by someone proselytizing. My personal beliefs are, well, personal- and I don’t appreciate anyone stuffing their own beliefs in my face.

Having said that, I welcome and embrace any expression of positivity, respect, love and charity in this difficult and challenging world. I appreciate and support the good work of people of faith in many areas of society- as long as they’re respectful and tolerant of others.

Christmas is about love, family- if you’re lucky enough to have one, hope, renewal and kindness. If you don’t want to celebrate- don’t!

But- the next time you want to get your undies in a bunch because there’s a Christmas tree in your town square or someone wishes you a heartfelt “Merry Christmas…”

…KNOCK IT OFF!

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Jim Bouchard is a nationally recognized speaker, media guest and author of THINK Like a BLACK BELT.

Learn more about Jim at these sites:

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The Duck Dynasty Debacle: It’s NOT a “free speech” issue…KNOCK IT OFF!

By Jim Bouchard

“CONGRESS (emphasis mine) shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech…”

CONGRESS!

Free speech is not free and the 1st Amendment does not give you the right to say whatever you want…without consequences.

Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame ruffled some feathers when he was quoted in a GQ interview fundamentally condemning what is, in his view, the sinful act of homosexuality and male prostitution. Putting aside any references to incest or any other redneck allusions I might be tempted to make…

…Phil exercised his right to free speech. It was published. A&E fired him. End of story.

The 1st Amendment is there to protect against the government gagging us. There are plenty of legitimate challenges to freedom we can debate on that front.

For those waving the “free speech” banner- here’s my attempt to enlighten you:

Let’s say someone pitches a tent on your front yard and proclaims they have the right to live anywhere they’d like. Are you violating that person’s rights when you tell them to get lost?

 Wouldn’t it be a violation of your rights if a government agency intervened and commanded you to allow the squatter to occupy your private land?

A&E is a private company. They own the time and space on their network. They’re free to choose who they’ll air on their network- or not.

Phil Robertson is free to express himself. He did. Now he owns the consequences.

A&E is exercising their rights as well…and they’ll face consequences too. They’d likely face far worse consequences if they didn’t boot the duck man given their audience. You might choose never to watch them again in response to their treatment of Robertson. You might applaud their decision to turn their backs on profit in support of the gay and lesbian population.

Legally- nobody is in the wrong here.

You can agree with Duck Man Phil or not- as of this writing, you’re still free to hold your own ideas. You might think he’s a champion of true Christian values…you might think he’s an intolerant, ignorant redneck asshole…

…but you if you think this is a free speech issue- you’re just plain wrong.

Knock It Off!

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