BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2017: Just A Few Thoughts

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A great shot of some extremely well known people; I had the pleasure of meeting the guy with the boxing gloves in the upper left hand corner. Photo courtesy of 1966mag.com

 

MUSINGS FROM A MIDDLE AGED AFRICAN AMERICAN MALE

 

It’s my regret that I’m giving homage to Black History Month on this blog with just a few days to go in the month.

But as they say, no use crying over spilled milk.

Or better late than never; take your pick.

 

Having said that…

In light of our new President-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named’s regime, who’s celebrating one month in office and – as we all know – has attacked every group of people not white, male, Christian, conservative, gay, wealthy, or a combination of those six attributes,

It seems like we need events such as Black History Month more than ever.

Particularly since it seems to be a bad time to be black – or any person of color who’s not named Clarence Thomas,  Ben Carson, Omarosa Manigault, Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz – right now, what with the increased racist/sexist/homophobic/Islamophobic attacks across America.

Living in California, the deepest of blue states, I’m honestly a tiny bit scared to go east of the Colorado River as while I refuse to say that every white person, or white Republican for that matter, is a bigot who feels that people who look like me are naturally inferior and  need to stay “in their place”,  it seems that too many whites have that mentality in the red states.

The comments I read from every article that talks about racial issues are an illustration of this thought, as you would think some of those folks writing such comments are carrying their Ku Klux Klan cards in their back pockets with white sheets hanging in their closets.

I feel thankful that I live in a relatively liberal area and subsequently have not seen or experienced any real, hardcore ideological or racial animosity.

At least not so far, thank God and knock wood.

 

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A really good message that needs to always be remembered. Image courtesy of wesleyunited.org

 

Personally, I feel Black History Month is sorely needed to remind Americans of how without Black people of African descent, there wouldn’t be an America.

And not just due to the 246 years of chattel slavery as so many things that we use and take for granted, from peanut butter to potato chips to the stoplight to open heart surgery, was invented by an African-American.

Imagine if blacks – as well as women, gays, and other people of color – were celebrated every month of the year rather than merely the one designated for them (the shortest month in the case of African-Americans).

Then perhaps a guy like our new Commander-In-Chief (my personal refusal to mention his name on this blog remains in effect) would never have been elected.

And there wouldn’t be a need for groups such as Black Lives Matter.

 

The irony of all of this, from a personal standpoint:

I won’t go into any details now, but in my book describing my experiences with having Asperger’s Syndrome, “WALKING ON EGGSHELLS”, which I’m in the final stages of editing and will begin the self-publishing process soon, there’s a chapter detailing my experiences of being black on the Autism Spectrum.

Unfortunately it hasn’t been the most fun experience, but that’s all I’m going to say at this time; you’ll just have to read chapter four of the book.

All right, I said I had just a few thoughts about this year’s Black History Month.

And I’m going to stick to that as I don’t want to ramble or go on and on save for this…

All I can do is as far as the extremely fragmented situation that this country is in is two things:

1. Hold good, optimistic thoughts,

and…

2. Be the best person I can be.

Which I reckon is all anyone could or should do.

 

 

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Being the longtime baseball and softball guy that I am, this is perhaps the part of the African-American experience that I’m most proud of: The (so-called) Negro Leagues, with its two greatest stars, Satchel Paige (left) and Josh Gibson (right) featured here. I’ll be writing an article about these and the great black players from that era soon on this blog. Photo courtesy of pechakucha.org

 

THE CURRENT RACIAL CRISIS IN AMERICA: Some Random Thoughts

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I love this picture, for obvious reasons. Photo courtesy of abc3340.com

 

Musings, based what has been happening in this country, on what seems to be a nadir on relations between races, cultures, and ethnic groups in this country with no end in sight.

 

Like seemingly every other black male of African descent in these United States, I have been the target of negativity solely based on my skin color.

I have been called the “N” word, particularly as a young boy in Riverside, CA, where the then-rural community I lived in (Woodcrest) featured numerous Caucasian folks of European descent from places like Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

I have been denied jobs solely because of my skin color, notably when I was in my early 20s and a lady, upon laying her eyes upon me and giving a less-than enthusiastic reaction after such an enjoyable conversation on the phone, told me that the job I was seeking had already been filled.

I have felt ostracized in various places throughout my adult years.

And I have been the target of racial profiling as I was stopped by the police in Santa Monica, CA, where I lived for over twenty years, on at least four occasions, being handcuffed during one of them in front of my house due to me fitting the description of a stalker;  if I didn’t show them my ID, I probably would have spent a few years in jail for something I did not do.

So when I heard about the latest killings of unarmed black men by police in Minnesota and Louisiana and what was apparently a retaliatory strike in Dallas with the lives of those five cops being snuffed out by Micah Xavier Johnson during a Black Lives Matter protest, my thoughts were varied…

 

 

Something that will hopefully induce hope: Cat Stevens’s (now Yusuf Islam’s) classic song “Peace Train”

 

 

First:  None of this was anything new as African-American men have been unnecessarily killed by authority figures for as long as African-Americans have existed in America.

Second:  Those cops who murdered Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philando Castile in the Minneapolis area, like pretty much every other cop who has committed similar acts before, will not be charged with any crime and will essentially get off free and clear.

Third:  It seems like race relations have plummeted and are at their lowest point in decades during Barack Obama’s presidency, as statements and efforts from conservative whites, in politics and elsewhere, to discredit our 43rd Commander-In-Chief have abounded.

Not to mention the rise in racist incidents at colleges like the universities of Oklahoma and Missouri.

Fourth:   As I have written in an article on Hubpages.com, despite the efforts and labors of icons like Martin Luther King and the advances that the Civil Rights Movement produced, there remains a certain amount of self-separation between races and ethnic groups due to cultural differences, a natural desire for people to interact based on what they have in common, and a notion that differences often breed discomfort, which breeds distrust.

I remember writing that no matter how many “I Have A Dream” speeches are made or how many times “We Shall Overcome” is sung, you can’t force a racist – in any color – to not be one.

You can’t force someone who thinks folks of different races are inferior, created to be subservient and who need to be “in their place”, to feel differently.

And you can’t force someone – black, white, Latino, or Asian – who vehemently frowns over racially mixed couples to suddenly embrace them.

 

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Why can’t we all get along like these two sweet little girls? Photo courtesy of blackyouthproject.com

 

Fifth:   This is something that has been in my mind for a while.

Based on all the current protest marches and confrontations between (mostly) white police and (mostly black and Latino) demonstrators, not to mention the riots that have resulted after incidents like this in the past,

I cannot help wondering if we are on the brink of a second Civil War.

A war not between the states, but a war between the races.

Judging from the comments I have read in articles regarding race that I have read online and the various statements from conservative whites (and African-Americans like Stacey Dash), one may well think such as I can’t help feeling that all it would take is one riot,

One skirmish between blacks and police that gets out of control,

One instance of some conservative white person who may be among some anti-Black Lives Matter counter demonstrators, who says the wrong thing and is attacked and (probably) killed by folks who are fed up, triggering an all-out brawl,

And you may well have the first battle of a race war, a Fort Sumter in a sense.

I also can’t help wondering if a hundred years from now, the dreams of racists will come true and America will be separated on the basis of color due to an impasse, the leaders conceding that the longtime racial animosities will never be solved and – like a divorcing couple or the Hindus and Muslims during the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947 (much to Mahatma Gandhi’s dismay) – the best solution being a formation of separate countries.

Of course it’s my sincere hope that this scenario will never come to pass, but…

Sometimes it’s a little difficult to be completely hopeful based on these recent and ongoing racial incidents and unrest.

However, I do know this:

Killing police officers will not do anything to stop racial profiling and murder of blacks by law enforcement.

Neither will rioting as if that were the case, attacks on people of color would have ended nearly 100 years ago.

I’m honestly not sure what the answer is – besides love and loving one another according to what Jesus Christ commands – but…

As Marvin Gaye once sang, war is NOT it.

I suppose that’s all I have to say about all of this, at least for now.

 

Group of diverse teenagers standing together and smiling for the camera. Horizontal shot.

Group of diverse teenagers standing together and smiling for the camera. Horizontal shot. Love this shot, too! Photo courtesy of ojaialano.wordpress.com

 

 

 

IN MY HUMBLE OPINION: What I Think Of The Student/Officer Incident In South Carolina

 

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A truly harsh sight, the girl getting manhandled by Ben Fields. Photo courtesy of complex.com

 

Being an African-American, I am pretty sure that the views I’m about to make will probably upset people, particularly to at least some of my fellow blacks.

I wouldn’t be surprised, after saying what I’m going to say, if I was thought of by some as a “Sellout”.

An “Oreo”(that’s white on the outside, black on the inside for those who don’t know).

Someone who is “Bougie”

Or an (the old standby term) “Uncle Tom”.

But I’m going to say it anyway, because it’s how I really feel…

When I saw that high school girl get roughly grabbed, thrown out of her desk chair, and dragged across the classroom by Ben Fields, a Resource Officer (which, by the way, is just a fancy name for security guard) and assistant football coach at the girl’s Columbia, SC school, the first thought that crossed my mind is one that unfortunately has been crossing my mind for a long time,

That what I saw – the rough treatment of young African-Americans (the girl who was roughed up was black and Fields was white, as we all know) – is nothing new and has been going on for as long as there have blacks of African descent in these United States.

The deaths of unarmed black men by police, the riots that resulted from them, and the “Black Lives Matter” movement that has sprung from these racist incidents have been well-documented;  no need to rehash details or specifics.

However…

There was one specific thing that I just cannot help thinking, a thing that I reckon might result in – to put it politely – being seen as something less than supportive of this issue, but I feel that it must be expressed:

Like more or less everyone else, that video clip of the girl being dumped and dragged across the room was sickening in a shake-my-head kind of way to me.

And of course I was glad at hearing the news that Fields was subsequently fired as a result of his actions. I want to make perfectly clear that I join those in condemning them as I fully and 100% feel that he was wrong.

 

OK, here’s the part of my opinion regarding this incident that some folks may not like:

What Fields did was bad and reprehensible, and he certainly deserved to be relieved of his duties.

But the girl was – and is – not completely blameless, either; she’s not the perfect, innocent angel in this particular instance.

According to what I understand happened, Fields was called into the classroom because the girl was being belligerent and willful in not following directions when her teacher told her to put away her cellphone.

Not to mention being flat-out disrespectful to her teacher, an administrator, and to Fields when she refused to get up to leave the classroom with the resource officer, after the teacher and an administrator both told her to leave the room for her insubordination.

If she had left the room what the teacher asked her to do so – heck, if she had obeyed Fields when he told her to stand up and come with him – none of what went down would have went down.

Do I feel that she deserved what she got?

Absolutely not, but she would have saved everyone an enormous amount of grief if she had adjusted her attitude and done something that I’m sure was taught to her in kindergarten (or should have been): Follow Directions.

Regardless of whether or not she felt she didn’t do anything, as that’s something she and all other young folks need to learn and understand.

I recently saw someone on CNN mention that what the girl did was a case of adolescent wilfulness, something common among practically all teenagers, and that she shouldn’t be treated so harshly for it.

Which I understand and agree with, but feel does NOT excuse her behavior as respect for those in authority – teachers, administrators and security officers in this case – has seemed to be lacking in too many of today’s pre-teens and adolescents for too long.

I should know; in the course of over twenty years of working with young people as a P.E. teacher, a coach, a tutor and an after school counselor, I was given more than my share of disrespect from kids, being cursed at, called names, and having had things like money stolen from me among other incidents.

I don’t mean to ramble on and on; all I’m saying is this:

 

What Fields did was wrong and monstrous, something that not only rightly resulted in his being sacked but should result in an assault charge and a civil lawsuit against him.

But if that girl showed some respect, regardless of her feelings, and followed directions instead of being willful and refusing to leave her seat, this incident would NOT have happened.

She would not have been dumped from her chair.

And she would not have been dragged from that room.

If I were an administrator at that school, I would have certainly supported Fields’ firing, but I would have also given that girl detention for insubordination.

 

If this opinion of mine leads some people into seeing me as an “Uncle Tom”, an “Oreo”, or a “sellout”,

Then all I can say is I’m sorry they feel that way.

 

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Despite the opinions I expressed here, one specifically, I hope that doesn’t lead some to think that I don’t agree with this statement or share in this movement’s goals. Photo courtesy of krmg.com