Sunday, March 23, 2008

Our Nation in Black & Wright

Selective perception is the idea that not all people see and interpret an environmental stimuli or act of communication in the same way. What a person sees and how he or she interprets it is based on his or her own individual beliefs and life experiences. Because no two people are exactly alike, it can never be taken for granted that any two people will perceive something in exactly the same way. The assertion that individual’s perceptions are based on their personal experiences is reinforced by standpoint theories. Standpoint theories are based on the idea that the world looks different based on your social standing. These vantage or standpoints are the result of a person’s field experiences as defined by social group membership. Interracial communication scholars suggest people often see life drastically different based on the social standing of their racial or ethnic group membership and that different racial standpoints potentially generate contrasting perceptions of reality and reasoning. Further, they suggest that standpoints affect how people communicate as well as perceive the communication of others and understanding of differing racial standpoints could enhance interracial communication consequently improve race relations dialogue in the United States.

Since the arrival of the first person of African descent to the North American continent in the late 1500’s to the institution of slavery, to Jim Crow laws, to the Civil Rights Movement to the Los Angeles, California riots of 1992 to the riots in Cincinnati, Ohio in 2001, people of African descent and those of European have traditionally had a tumultuous and very unique history living with each other. Because of their vastly different histories it is no wonder they often share different vantage points.

Throughout the history of the United States African Americans have developed views on domestic and foreign policy that have been in contrast to the mainstream. Among the policy issues that have generated differing standpoints are the United States government’s role in military action abroad and their reasoning to initiate or support such actions, particularly on nations where the majority of the population is people of color.

Because different standpoints have often been taken by African Americans on issues foreign policy issues involving military involvement questions concerning the loyalty and patriotism of African Americans have risen in past. Some have argued African Americans are sometimes not patriotic because they don’t support United States military action. Is this the case?

In 1919 following the first World War, W.E.B. Du Bois wrote in The Crisis:

“By the God of Heaven, we are cowards and jackasses if now that the war is over, we do not marshal every ounce …to fight a… more unbending battle against the forces of hell in our land.”

After returning from World War I racial discrimination still blatantly existed through out America and the continuance of the practice of lynching experienced a dramatic increase.

During World War II many African Americans adopted the concept of the “double V”. The “double V” concept was that the war must end with two victories, both abroad and at home. With not enough progress in racial justice by the close of World War II and immediately following, the window by which African Americans viewed domestic and foreign policy as they relate to each other had been built and would be set precedent for future United States military involvement.

During the 1967 antiwar march in Central Park many Blacks carried signs that said “NO VIETNAMESE EVER CALLED ME NIGGER.”

In 2001, Cornel West shared with an audience that African Americans had been victims of “institutional forms of terrorism” for many years before September 11 and eluded that the compensation given to victims of the families of the September 11 tragedies resembled reparations and African Americans still haven’t received any from more than 200 years of slavery.

Surely the dialogue on race and its implications in the United States has a long way to go. While I may not agree with everything he said, however in some instances, Jeremiah may have been right.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Memo: Geraldine Ferraro

Ms. Ferraro:

You have been quoted as saying that Barack Obama is “"lucky" to be black, and that he would not be where he is today "if he were a white man" or "a woman." You have gone on to say that you will not be discriminated against because you are white.

Ms. Ferraro may I please remind you of the following:

Black males 18-24 years old have the highest homicide victimization rates. Their rates are more than double the rates for black males age 25 and older and almost 4 times the rates for black males 14-17 years old. (Bureau of Justice Statistics)

One in nine black men between the ages of 20 and 34 is in prison. (Pew Center on the States)

The share of young black men without jobs has climbed relentlessly, with only a slight pause during the economic peak of the late 1990's. In 2000, 65 percent of black male high school dropouts in their 20's were jobless — that is, unable to find work, not seeking it or incarcerated. By 2004, the share had grown to 72 percent, compared with 34 percent of white and 19 percent of Hispanic dropouts. Even when high school graduates were included, half of black men in their 20's were jobless in 2004, up from 46 percent in 2000. (“Reconnecting Disadvantaged Young Men" - Urban Institute Press, 2006).

Incarceration rates climbed in the 1990's and reached historic highs in the past few years. In 1995, 16 percent of black men in their 20's who did not attend college were in jail or prison; by 2004, 21 percent were incarcerated. By their mid-30's, 6 in 10 black men who had dropped out of school had spent time in prison. (“Reconnecting Disadvantaged Young Men" - Urban Institute Press, 2006).

In the inner cities, more than half of all black men do not finish high school. (“Reconnecting Disadvantaged Young Men" - Urban Institute Press, 2006).

African Americans have the highest age-adjusted death rate for heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and HIV/AIDS. (Center for Disease Control)

Black people have come to bear the greatest burden of AIDS in America. They represent 54 percent of the new HIV/AIDS cases in America, 70 percent of the new cases among American youth are Black, and nearly 67 percent of the new HIV/AIDS cases among American women are Black, and 43 percent of the new cases among men are Black. Most importantly, the majority of those still dying from AIDS in America, totaling more than 18,000 last year, were Black. (Black AIDS Institute)

As you have said that your comments were taken out of context I hope that not even you could take those staggering realities listed above out of context.

To that end Ms. Ferraro, please be clear that Barack Obama is not lucky to be who he is. He is lucky to be alive in America.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

After you've done all you can...

The past two weeks I have been very stressful and the past few days have been full of emotions ranging from near rage to sadness. My mind has been racing, I have yelled, I have been spinning….spinning…spinning. And now I am calm. In a few hours I am heading home to be with my family and I am slowly beginning to feel at peace.

I believe my body and mind are winding down now because it knows that it needs the rest and more importantly it knows that it has done all that it can do. I spent a great deal of the day going back and forth with my mother over the language and layout of the program that will be shared with others at my grandmothers’ home-going. In the end I was satisfied. My final gifts to her will be the gifts that God has blessed me with so abundantly. I have placed my hands on how she will remembered in writing forever and Saturday I will read a verse from the old and from the new. She enjoyed hearing me read. My spirit too will be at peace.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Soul Gone Home

The only thing promised in life is death. Last week my grandmother turned 72 and yesterday she died.

I thank God for those 72 years and for the memories that I will forever have of her and her particular ways. I believe that is one of the things that I will remember most about the beautiful woman that she was, that she had always been very particular. The last time I saw her alive back in December I remember I chuckled because she was in her gentle manner giving orders about how she wanted something to be done – her way. I laughed because that is how she always has been. She was a very neat woman. Her home, her hair, her clothes, her food, everything that she placed her fingers into she found it her duty to mold it in a particular form. That day in December I was instructed by her how to put the moisturizer on her hands and arms. Even that had to be done in a particular way.

She loved her grandchildren and she showed that love to us in her own particular way. Her grandchildren loved her.

As a child we did not always have the strongest of relationships. But just last week I noted to my mother how I was so delighted that God had turned that around. As I grew older and matured, so did she and our relationship and understanding of each other blossomed. I had a great respect for her.

I wonder if when her spirit got to heaven was it greeted by the spirits of my aunt and uncle with the same excitement they had when they were little children and she would come home.

I marveled at how she had done it. She was a woman who bore and raised four children and buried two of them. Yet, she kept going. Love had not always loved her. Her children had not always treated her right. Yet, she kept going.

Now that her soul has gone home I pray that it is in a state of everlasting peace. No more crying there.