Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Morality of Slavery

I recently came across an argument over the morality of Slavery. The link provided was;

The current CNN series Black in America explores many issues of the African-American experience. Slavery and it's effects seem to be the most common reason given for our current condition. I am of the mind set of letting go of the past and working toward a better future.
Here is my response to to Original Poster of the above link;

I am not much of a philosopher, so I may be at a disadvantage in trying to explain my point of view. I think that I'll be using laysayfair'r cited site as a starting point.

When we say that something is immoral, it is to assume a reasonable agreement on a certain level of morality. Citing the Bible as a reference becomes confusing because of the many seemingly contradictory views expressed within it's pages. To assume a type of inherent concept of morality would discount the learned aspect of morality. Although we could argue about the learned type as being more about the revelation of pre-existing morality. [This type of meta-physics and Entanglement Theory is a bit too complicated to go into any great detail in this opinion.]

IMO - There is a natural order to things. While Slavery was wrong (IMO), the slave wasn't worthy of freedom until he had earned it. [The Africans who conquered the lesser tribes and sold them into slavery had "earned" their freedom by being the victors. The losing tribes had not (yet) earned a higher position and were left with the consequences.]

African Americans could have taken the lead of rebels like Nat Turner and fought to try to earn their freedom. Many slaves escaped the situation (Underground Railroad) while others somehow bought their freedom (both earned).

As greater a greater understanding of what America's morality was going to be was revealed, the anti-slavery movement seemed to take root. The North's philosophy (at that time) seems to have won the whole debate with the South's philosophy (at that time). Freedom was earned by those on the winning side of the Civil war.

Later, legal, intellectual or philosophical (as opposed to armed) battles were fought to extend (or recognize) the Constitutional rights of ALL Americans. The sixties produced a culture that was apparently ready to determine it's own future in a Government enforced freedom for all. They had apparently earned their freedom through years of service, humiliation, oppression and endurance. I think that more non-Blacks had respect (not pity or guilt) for these traits and chose to join the fight (or march, or protest or just be seen) against the existing model of morality.

Those with this new view of morality succeeded in their approach and we now have the level of morality that we generally accept as our own.

The next step in this process is one of personal responsibility.

This opinion can easily be shot full of holes. So in the words of Aristotle: "Come, let us get on with the enquiry".

Monday, July 21, 2008

Uncle Toms Blabbin'

"Everything white people don't like about black people, black people really don't like about black people... . It's like a civil war going on with black people, and it's two sides - there's black people and there's n****'s, and n****'s have got to go...". - Chris Rock

Jessie Jackson stated that Barak Obama "speaks down to Black people" during a hot-mic moment caught on a recent Fox News telecast.. Later, it was revealed that Mr. Jackson had used the N-word to describe Mr. Obama. Jessie Jackson's career only exists as long as at the perceived threat of racial dis-harmony exists.

Political researcher Laird Wilcox states; "There is an anti-racism industry entrenched in the United States that has attracted bullying, moralizing fanatics, whose identity and livelihood depend upon growth and expansion of their particular kind of victimization". There is a great deal of money to be made in the general public's perception of fear, hate and discrimination. The Anti Defamation League (ADL) has annual expenditures that exceed $30,000,000.00 and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has controlled assets of over $136,000,000.00 and a yearly intake of nearly $40,000,000.00. All of this money and resources are needed in a country which SPLC spokesman Mark Potok stated , in an Associated Press article; "We are talking about a tiny number of Americans who are members of hate groups - I mean infinitesimal".

Mr. Jackson's problem doesn't seem to be with Barak Obama or Bill Cosby. Mr. Jackson's seems to have a bigger problem with his brand of victimization becoming outdated. And thus his seat at the political table becoming non-existent. The comments by Mr. Obama (and earlier by Mr. Cosby) are nothing new or revolutionary. Many outspoken blacks - from Sojourner Truth to Booker T. Washington to South Africa's Steven Biko - have advocated the idea of self-reliance and personal responsibility. "Militant" Black organizations like The Black Panthers and The Nation of Islam also preach this message.

I'm often called "Uncle Tom" for being from the "personal responsibility" school of thought. Here are more examples of "Uncle Toms".

Malcolm X ; "The white man is too intelligent to let someone else come in and gain control of the economy of his community. But you will let anyone come in and take control of the economy of your community, control the housing, control the jobs, control the business... . No, you're out of your mind."
"The future belongs to those who prepare for it today."
Frederick Douglas ; "People might not get all they work for in this world, but they most certainly work for all they get."
Booker T Washington ; "Nothing ever comes to one, that is worth having, except as a result of hard work."
"If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else."
"Friction between the races will pass away in proportion as the Black man - by reason of his skill, intelligence and character - can produce something that the white man wants or respects in the commercial world."
Marcus Garvey ; "The greatest stumbling block in the way of progress in the race has invariably come from within the race itself."
"The monkey wrench of destruction ,as thrown into the cog of Negro Progress, is not thrown so much by the outsider - as by the very fellow who is in our fold, and who should be the first to grease the wheel of progress rather than seeking to impede."
W.E.B. Dubois ; "A little less complaint and a little more dogged work and manly striving, would do us more credit than a thousand civil rights bills."

Political activist and social commentator Dennis Kuhmo put it this way; "...the greatest power you will ever have is within yourself. It's not a question of affirmative action but personal action."

A better job is done on this topic by;

The race card has become as worn out as the ace of spades in an old deck of cards that has been played too often and shuffled too much -both for too long. The card has lost it's sheen, lost it's rigidity and therefore lost it's value. It is not only time to get a new card, it is time to get a whole new deck and an entirely different game.
The next time someone calls me a self-hater, sell-out or Uncle Tom - I'll take comfort in the philosophical company I keep.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

School Sucks

Every summer (for the past ten years) I mentor and tutor teen boys - most of whom are in summer school trying to re-take classes failed during the school year. Many of these boys have been passed to the next grade in spite of having little understanding of the past year's subjects. Is it these boy's fault? A little. Is it their parent's (usually single mothers - but that's another issue) fault? Maybe a little more so. Does any of the blame fall to our school system itself. Yes, I think that the majority of the blame falls to our government and programs like the poorly conceived and implemented (although well intended) "No Child Left Behind".

In 1940, 90 percent of whites and 80 percent of blacks were considered literate. this figure doesn't take into account the disadvantages of segregation, overt racism and other social factors of the time. . Eighty percent of Blacks could read. Seventy years later (according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress and the National Adult Literacy Survey) only 83 percent of white and 60 percent of blacks are considered literate. We currently spend three to four times as much money per student as we did in 1940 - but with the opposite of our intended results.
As the ability to read plummeted after WWII, crime and out of wedlock births rose. The Justice Department states that 80 percent of incarcerated inmates are illiterate.
Whites can compensate for a schools inability to teach proper reading and writing skills with the Standard American English often spoken in the home. By the time that blacks were fully able to participate in equal schooling - our dialect had become so dis-similar to SAE that it was often impossible to teach children the relationship between let's say - the phonetic; "teef" and the proper spelling; "teeth". Whichever teacher pushed for the acceptance of Ebonics more than two decades ago should never be allowed to teach again.

The architects of our modern American Educational system didn't have the best interests of the general public in mind when they set forth on it's design and implementation.
In 1917 "The Education Trust" (including representatives from Carnegie, Rockefeller, Harvard, Stanford and the National Education Association) had the goal to "impose on the young the ideal of subordination".
Rockefeller's General Board put it this way; "We will not try to make these people or any of their children into philosophers or men of learning or men of science."
In a speech by Woodrow Wilson; "We want one class to have a liberal education. We want another class, a very much larger class of necessity, to forgo the privilege of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks." The school system wasn't designed to help the common man but to benefit industrialists and financiers.

Our educational system -with it's practices of giving many students "free" breakfast, "free" lunch and "free" after school tutoring- has taken the place of the parent in a child's development and discipline. According to Peter Brieggin M.D. ; "The U.S. uses 90% of the worlds Methylphenidate (Ritalin)" in order to suppress our nation's children. As the state has taken more control of our children's lives, the diagnosis of ADHD has been on a steady rise. Ritalin was invented for the purpose of sedating children in school. Between the NEA and other powerful special interest groups, many of the functions of the family have been handed over willingly to those who only seem to have their own monetary interests in mind when making policy decisions. Conservative columnist Cal Thomas states; " why should we think that our antiquated education system doesn't need a make over too? What's worse, the various interest groups and this virtual monopoly has robbed too many students - especially the poor - of their right to a good education. We both know that's often their only ticket out of poverty."

Math is another deficiency in our educational system. In march the National Mathematics Advisory Panel noted that U.S. students lacked a deep understanding of basic math skills, including a grasp of whole numbers and fractions. I made it through high school Algebra, geometry and Trigonometry before my alert Calculus teacher noticed that I had problems understanding the proper method of adding and subtracting positive and negative integers. I was just passed to the next level without fully understanding concepts that should have been learned years earlier. Algebra II is important. According to the panel; "...students who take Algebra II are twice as likely to graduate from college compared (with) students with less math preparation". Teacher Patrick Welsh states (in a USA Today article); "We graduate hundreds of kids who need a calculator to figure out that nine times five is 45". This explains the dumbfounded look I often get when I hand the kid at the drive-thru window exactly ten dollars or so more than the exact change needed.

How best to teach children is a big concern for our schools. In my first few years of elementary school, I was one of two or three "token" blacks in each classroom. The theory was that the two or three higher performing blacks would help and inspire the under-performing black students. I always had to sit next to the most troublesome kid - often resulting in a fight (see the earlier post "Bring Back the Belt" for a description of the fight against Mike Macky and the resulting consequences). The next method I was to experience was the "one-up" thought of placing advanced children in a higher class grade for two hours a day. This method worked well for me and allowed me to be used as the "token' in my regular class. Finally, in the sixth grade, all of the "gifted" children were put into the same classroom regardless of grade. Many "smart kids" soon found out that they were only "kind-of smart". Mr Folger's class was ideal for me in the freedoms and responsibilities given to each student. I recently explained the three scenarios to one of my young gifted cousins and asked him which situation was the best for each student or group of students. We still haven't figured out the best answer.

Teachers are another important factor in my education equation. Former Labor Secretary William Black states that "we need the very best among us to become teachers". He further stated;" We recruit new teachers largely from the bottom 30% of entering college students". Teachers are overwhelmed and underpaid. They're the middle-managers of our society's educational industry. Many people become teachers by default after graduation as a means to a (paltry) paycheck. Many students become disenchanted with the process of learning because of these (often) unqualified teachers.

Beaumont, Texas schools may be one of the worst examples of the breakdown of our educational system. Brook Dollas writes about Texas schools: "The public school establishment clings to the notion that schools can only get better if they get more money. Yet per student spending in Texas has almost doubled in the past ten years... to $9629.00 in 2005-06 with little to show for it in student achievement, on top of all the thousands dropping out of school entirely" (42% of Blacks, 45% of Hispanics and 24% of whites).

I had a young cousin trying to go to summer school in order to get a jump on his graduating class. His mother was told that all of the summer school slots were already filled by students who had failed the previous years classes. While in California - Owen Leong writes (in a USA Today article) about how he and 200 other mostly Asian kids had to wait in line from 1am to try to register at 8am for the few slots at their summer school, trying to get a jump on the many students with near perfect SAT scores.

I still don't know why our many in our educational system put the comfort of failure or poverty ahead of the promise of the exceptional. I guess our system wasn't intended to create originality or independence but conformity and dependence. ~uglyblackjohn~

Sources; USA Today, Parade Magazine, Houston Chronicle, Beaumont Enterprise, John Taylor Gatto (Some Lessons From the Underground History of American Education), Peter Brieggin MD (Psychiatric Drugging of Children for Behavioral Control)

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Broken Stereotypes

When I was a kid, I used to swim. I wasn't great but I was good (at the high school level). My younger brothers were both top 25 (in the country) for age group swimmers. At the time, we were often told that we thought that we were white (by other Black children) and that Blacks don't/can't swim (by other White children). I remember kids looking at me in lane 4 (the fastest seeded lane) and laughing at the Black kid who would even try to compete in swimming. After I'd won, I'd take great pride in beating someone who thought less of me predicated solely on my race and not the race we'd swum. My boy Pitts lettered as a sophomore on our high school golf team. Ben and Davey Barnes were standout tennis players at the my high school. I never grew up thinking that one's race prohibited them from achieving success in their chosen field . We all went on to private colleges and/or universities.

On a weekend that included 41 year old Jewish-American Dara Torres qualifying for her fifth Olympic Games, the Williams sisters meeting in the finals of yet another Grand Slam tennis tournament - the most impressive stereotype dashed was the one about Blacks not being able to swim. Cullen Jones finished third in the 50m. freestyle at the recent U.S. Olympic qualifying meet for the 2008 Beijing Games. Mr. Jones barely missed qualifying for the games after setting an American record in the prelims (The record was later broken by the winner of the event's final).

Swimming is generally a young person's sport. Tell that to Ms. Torres.

Blacks don't/can't swim. Tell that to Mr. Jones.

Blacks don't/can't play tennis. Tell that to Venus or Serena. [Who actually follow a long line of Black tennis greats; Althea Gibson( in 1951 became the first Black to win a Grand Slam event in tennis ), Aurthur Ashe, Zina Garrisson, Yannick Noah, Mal Washington, ...]

Blacks don't/can't ride skateboards. Tell that to Stevie Williams.

Blacks don't/can't ride motocross. Tell that to James Stewart.

Blacks know nothing about fencing. Tell that to Peter Westbrook (the 13 time winner of American fencing championships).

Blacks don't/can't play golf. Do I even need to mention the name that's become synonymous with greatness?

The next time someone tries to impose a stereotype on your race, gender, age or culture - do what many iconoclasts have done in the past, prove them wrong by succeeding.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy 232nd Birthday !

Happy Birthday America.
Happy Birthday big head ErickA.
Happy Anniversary Roc and Gidget.
The Fourth was always a fun Holiday back in Cali. I remember having a picnic at the cemetery and watching fireworks with my ex- Debbie. Don't ask me why we'd watch from the cemetery, it was her tradition. We did have a great view of the fireworks fired from the top of Mt. Roubidoux. The Bahia in San Diego the Hilton in Lake Arrowhead and Roc's wedding at the Mission Inn in Riverside were all great 4th of July memories (If you can call waking up two days later and still trying to remember what happened memories).

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


Black people have always been cool. It has not always been cool to be Black.
During slavery, it was not cool to be Black. In the South, it's not always cool to be Black. Driving a Benz in South Orange County and getting a "DWB", it's not cool to be Black. Watching the news in a room full of White people as another gang shooting, armed robbery, or other violent crime gets covered [and always with a toothless (or having many gold "teefes"), under-educated and poorly spoken person being interviewed], it's embarrassing to be Black. Even though I did not commit the crime, I feel a sense of relief when the perpetrator isn't Black.
I just finished watching "Iron Man" with one of my little cousins. It's not a terrible film, in fact - it's pretty good. The final credits were interrupted by a cameo of Samuel Leroy Jackson as "Nick Fury".
The thing about Sam is that - he's ALWAYS cool. Will Smith may be a bigger movie star, but no actor has a higher total gross box office than Sam. Terrence Howard may be the "in" Black actor for the moment - but Sam has been cool longer than many movie goers have been alive. Lawrence Fishburn has a litany of stellar performances and was even "cool" in; "Apocalypse Now", "The Matrix"and "Deep Cover", but Sam was more cool as the townie hanging out at KFC to Fishburn's idealistic student in "School Daze".
Most people love Black culture, whether they know it or not. The Beatles were just American soul music re-packaged in the form of four young lads from Liverpool. "Elvis...was a hero to most, but he never meant ish to me...' , says Chuck D. Elvis was hugely influenced by the American Black Gospel and Soul music of his times. Rock and Roll music was the bastard child of Country & Western and R&B. It's only natural for Rap (as well as Punk) to have been the bastard child of Rock. Neither genre would even be claimed by the mainstream Rock establishment until it had achieved a certain measure of success. Listen to old school Rap. Almost all of the samples and music are Rock. From Cab Calloway to Lil' Wayne, Black culture has always influenced popular American culture. Brittany, Christina and Pink all are more R&B than Rock. Don't even get me started on Justin Timberlake.
Ask any kid who their favorite athlete is and chances are that the person mentioned is Black. Micheal Schumaucker may have made more money than Tiger or Jordan some years, but who would list him as their favorite athlete?
Aside from sports and entertainment, the most obvious affectation of Black culture seems to be outwardly gay males. The stereotypical gay male sounds more like a Black "hood-rat" than he would Will of "Will and Grace". Both groups come across as "Drama Queens" to me.
Obama's fist-pound made every evening news broadcast. All of a sudden, all of the high-fiving middle-aged men wanted to be able to properly perform a fist-pound.
Beyoncee' came to the rescue of every callipygian woman in America - when suddenly, it was okay to have a nice "B'dunk-a-dunk" (even to know what this phrase means).
Every light-skinned Black in America is a by-product of someone somewhere at sometime liking a bit of that "Brown-Suga'".
Back to Sam - Whether playing "Jules Winnfield" in Pulp Fiction, "Lucious Best a.k.a. Frozone" in The Incredibles, "Dr Mister Senor Love Daddy" in Do The Right Thing or even the crack-head "Gator Purify" in Jungle Fever - Sam (like Black people) was (is) always C-O-O-L.