My Personal Reflections of Black History Month

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One of many, many elegantly put quotes by this man

THOUGHTS REGARDING THE 28 DAYS SET ASIDE TO FOCUS ON BLACK AMERICANS OF AFRICAN DESCENT FROM A MIDDLE AGED AFRICAN AMERICAN MALE

As this year’s version of Black History Month is beginning to wind down, I have always wondered about a few things regarding this occasion, the most prevalent one being this:

Why is the month set aside for commemorating and celebrating the achievements of African-Americans the shortest month?

And that was an improvement, as it was originally slated to be a week when it was first introduced in 1926 and continued to be that way for fifty years until it was officially expanded by the U.S. Government in 1976, the first unofficial celebration of Black History Month being in 1970 at Ohio’s Kent State University after it was proposed by African-American students there the year before.

As many folks have shared this same sentiment, I see it as a legitimate concern, as is this:

Why – during this month and any other time that classrooms pay any attention to blacks in their curriculum – are the only things covered (seemingly) are Booker T. Washington, George Washington Carver, Harriet Tubman, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech?

At least, that’s the way it was when I was in school during the 1970s and 80s.

It’s true that Barack Obama certainly gets priority in school lessons regarding the contributions of African-Americans these days, but being that he is the President of the United States, I’m sure that there was no choice in the matter.

And I’m sure a few more figures like Malcolm X and Jackie Robinson are given some decent attention today during these 28 days.

However, here is my point:

As much as I feel that learning about the achievements and contributions that blacks of African descent have given to this country is very important, I must be honest and state that…

Black History Month has never excited me as much as it should over the years, simply because it’s my strong conviction that African-Americans should be given proper attention in schools and society every month of the year.

The same goes for Latinos, Asians, Native Americans, women, and gays as setting aside months for those different people gives a message that outside of February (for blacks), March (for women), and the period from mid-September to mid-October (for Latinos, as that’s when National Hispanic Heritage Month is observed), those groups don’t matter as if  mainstream society is saying, “OK, you had your month where we had to pay attention to you, now go away.”

With those different groups being expected to say with gratitude and a happy face, “Thanks for the crumbs!”

Which in my opinion is exactly what these commemorative months are: Crumbs.

In this day and age where policemen are murdering young unarmed black men and are getting away with it thanks to grand juries, with riots (read: Ferguson, MO) resulting from those injustices,

Where according to John Legend at the recent Academy Awards, there are more African-American males who are incarcerated today than were enslaved in 1850,

And where there is seemingly a diminishing sense of sympathy over the plight of blacks and Latinos among certain groups of conservative whites, who feel that those so-called “minorities” need to stop whining about their lot and how things are so racist and unfair and pull themselves up by their own bootstraps,

The notion of African-Americans, Latinos, women (as well as Native Americans and gays) being given a few weeks for America to pay special attention to them should be changed to having all of those groups’ achievements, contributions celebrated all twelve months.

Perhaps relations between mainstream America and the different races, genders, and sexual orientations who are so vital to the well-being of this nation would improve as a result.

Just a few ramblings from me. What do you think?

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The University of Dayton Singers performing in a Black History Month concert; Love the unity between the races being shown here

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Autistic Intolerance: Struggling to be Accepted in the Mainstream World

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A scene from the 2012 Southern California Special Olympics

 

HOW THE DEVELOPMENTALLY DISABLED AND PEOPLE ON THE AUTISM SPECTRUM ARE OFTEN MISUNDERSTOOD, AND SUBSEQUENTLY NOT TOLERATED, IN MAINSTREAM SOCIETY

 

Until about three years ago, when I was able to work at home due to getting a reliable PC, I spent at least a part of each day in various libraries using the free computers offered there; it served as an office of sorts.

At this one library in my neighborhood, a group of individuals with Down’s Syndrome, various levels of autism and other special needs often come in and do things like look at the magazines and use the internet.

Some of these folks tend to not always behave appropriately, making noises and doing other little things that are frowned on in places where quiet is required, like libraries.

Being someone with Asperger’s Syndrome, I certainly understood these people and their idiosyncracies as although there were times when I was a bit bothered by their actions, I always made it a point to be tolerant of them because that’s what I would want for myself if I were in their exact shoes.

Unfortunately, there seems to be a lot of people who when it comes to the developmentally disabled, don’t see things the way I do.

One day I was working online in the neighborhood library when this autistic guy kept walking back and forth making different noises, which is a pretty common thing in that population.

Apparently this lady who was on the computer next to mine didn’t understand that, because she started to make a big stink about the poor young man, essentially acting like a word-that-rhymes-with witch.

The supervisor who was in charge of the autistic tried to explain the situation and why he behaved the way he did, but the lady didn’t care and didn’t want to hear it; she nastily told me to mind my own business when I attempted to explain to her how pacing and making little sound is what autistics typically do.

It was painfully obvious that this was a woman who was unapologetically intolerant and no desire to care about those who were developmentally disabled as in her mind, this guy was nothing but a nuisance who needed to go away.

I understood that she was annoyed by the guy’s actions, and I also understand that many people feel that autistics shouldn’t use their condition as a crutch to do anything they want.

However…

Her reactions showed that she was heartless and unsympathetic to the developmentally challenged, that she would not even try to tolerate his condition.

Which was too bad, as the whole episode was an illustration of people with special needs being among this country’s last oppressed minorities.

In fact, it seems that in the neurotypical (non-disabled), or mainstream world, folks who have full-blown autism or Asperger’s (like me) or some other developmental disorder are seen as inferior beings and lower than dirt for their behaviors such as talking to oneself – which I used to constantly do and still partake of every so often – making different noises and sounds, and doing repetitive motions like stimming.

Though it’s understandable that those actions may make some feel uncomfortable, it’s certainly no excuse for people on that spectrum to be treated like scum.

Fortunately, there are many people who not only understand and tolerate that population, they also accept them.

But unfortunately, too many do not.

Which upsets me, especially since even though I’m higher functioning than those people who go to the library, I am a part of that spectrum.

I suppose it would be asking a little too much for some folks to understand and accept individuals with special needs like that autistic guy in the library whom that lady was being so mean about..

Or me.

I’m well aware that there are many neurotypicals who have a seemingly overwhelming amount of stuff going on in their lives to be concerned about a group of individuals that are largely unable to do the things that come second nature to them.

But…

It would be nice if those in the autistic spectrum – and everyone else who is developmentally disabled – were not only tolerated but accepted and embraced by not just their families, social workers, special education teachers and counselors and the folks who run the Special Olympics.

That’s all I am saying.

 

 

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Pondering My Mortality

 

 

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MUSINGS AND THOUGHTS REGARDING MY HEALTH ISSUES AND REALIZING THAT ONE DAY I WILL NO LONGER BE HERE AFTER NOT THINKING ABOUT THAT FOR SO LONG

 

For the past several months, I have been working very hard to improve my health by working out four and five times a week and changing my diet to include more vegetables and fruits, along with  cutting way down on, if not out entirely, foods I have enjoyed for years such as hot dogs, hamburgers, cured meats, and anything else with high amounts of sodium and fat.

This has been the case not because I’m some sort of health nut like those folks you see on TV, or because I’m vain or anything like that.

It was a fear of death that got me going on what I should have been a part of my life all along, as a stroke scare caused by extremely high blood pressure “woke me up”.

Though I had made progress – a check up in December revealed that I had lost over 20 pounds – after I had taken some blood tests it was also revealed after I had high cholesterol and was pre-diabetic.

And on top of everything else, I have been unable to properly walk these past few days as a gout attack has swollen the toes on my right foot and have rendered it painful to get around.

All of this has led me to think about something that I’m sure everyone has given thought to at one time or another, something that’s increasing pondered as one grows older:

Death.

Along with taxes, it’s something that I fully understand that every living being eventually experiences.

In fact, like I suppose everyone else – except for those unfortunate youngsters with cruel diseases like cancer or cystic fibrosis – for the longest time I knew in the back of my mind that I would eventually stop breathing, but because of my youth I never really considered it in the grand tradition of young people thinking they are invincible and immortal.

In the midst of experiencing these health issues of mine – which I reckon I’ll continue to have to deal with – more than ever I have realized that while I definitely have no plans or desires to die for at least another thirty years, these issues I’m going through has inevitably led me to consider the possibility that I may not have as much time left on earth as I would like.

Like Dr. Martin Luther King stated in his last speech before his assassination in Memphis…

“…I’d like to live a long life, longevity has its place. But that doesn’t matter to me now. I just want to do God’s will.”

With the greatest respect, I differ with Dr. King with regards to longevity as I admit that still matters to me.

But I’m in complete agreement with him in that I am doing, and continuing to do, what I can to improve my health, and after that do something else that is of the utmost importance:

Leave it to God.

Which is all I can do.

In other words, if the Good Lord decides that my time is up despite all my efforts to stick around, there’s nothing I’ll be able to do about it.

In the meantime, I’m going to eat some things that an article on the internet said will help get rid of this gout pain and swelling that I currently have, as well as do some abdominal crunches, which will tide me over until my foot is back in shape and I am able to do cardio again.

 

A Few Thoughts on The End of the Football Season

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One of the Patriots’ touchdowns that helped them take the Vince Lombardi Trophy away from the Pacific Northwest

 

ONE LONGTIME SPORTS FAN’S TAKE ON AMERICA’S FAVORITE SPORT ENDING ITS SEASON 

 

Before anyone goes on about I am just a wimpy hater, I should state that like the vast majority of sports fans in America, I am a football fan.

Particularly the collegiate kind, where I have been a loyal and passionate follower of my alma mater’s team, the UCLA Bruins, for over 30 years; that’s no secret to any of my friends and acquaintances.

As for the kind of football that players legally get paid to play…

I’m not nearly a fan of that as I am of college football, for many reasons, among them being more traditions in college and not having to worry about teams moving if the owner is not happy about where they’re playing.

Or players holding out and missing training camp because their salary is $1.15 million dollars instead of $1.2 million.

Despite being a fan of the most popular spectator sport in this country, when Malcolm Butler intercepted what would have been a NFL championship-winning pass from Russell Wilson on the one-yard line, ending the just-played Super Bowl and giving the New England Patriots the Vince Lombardi Trophy for the fourth time, I felt just like Henry Aaron did when the baseball legend broke Babe Ruth’s career home run record in 1974 when the longtime Brave said,

“I’m just glad it’s all over with.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

I’m glad that a sport where roughly hundreds of its former players are tangled up in a lawsuit with their former employers over compensation for debilitating, brain-damaging, and sometimes life-ending injuries,

Where big names such as the ex-Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon can’t remember where he is going when he goes on errands and where he lives when he is heading for home, his brain issues are so pronounced,

Where numerous stars have committed suicide by shooting themselves in the chest so that doctors can research the damage in their brain that caused the suicidal feelings,

And where headlines have been made over players knocking out their fiancés in hotel elevators, whipping their children with tree branches, (allegedly) deflating footballs during a playoff game, and starting a fight a few seconds before the end of their championship game due to them being upset at being denied a second straight title,

Is closing shop until next fall.

Because to be honest, I was getting a little tired of it.

All the drama that went on in the NFL this year has reinforced this longtime conviction of mine, that:

When it comes to which sport is better, baseball wins the argument.

To answer all the pigskin fanatics that are screaming right about now about how baseball is boring, slow, and just plain sucks, among the simple reasons why baseball is the better overall sport are:

1. It’s safer – how many ex-Major League Baseball players have suffered from permanent brain injuries compared to ex-NFLers?

2. Baseball players have longer careers – seven to ten years as opposed to three and a half to four years for their NFL counterparts.

3. Baseball players make more money, with an average salary of more tha $3 million compared to the NFL’s average of just over $1 million.

4. The players’ union is stronger in MLB than in the NFL as the World Series being cancelled in 1994 was a result of the players sticking together while the NFL players’ strike of 1987 collapse due to those athletes’ crossing the picket line. 

5. Despite the MLB Players Union being as strong as it is, there has been a lasting peace between them and management for more than twenty years, while the NFL owners locked out their players as recently as 2011.

In what I believe settles the argument, guys such as former Bears coach Mike Ditka have said that they would not recommend that kids play football because the risk of bad injuries is just not worth it.

That these statements are coming from someone who likes the gridiron game  – me –  is perhaps what is particularly interesting, I think; imagine what someone who hates the sport would be saying…

Meanwhile, I am very much looking forward to the week of February 16th – two weeks from this writing.

That’s when pitchers and catchers report to either Florida or Arizona for Spring Training.

 

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Clayton Kershaw, the reigning King of Baseball (at least among pitchers)