Friday, August 27, 2010
It makes me wonder if a new, but more subtle form of racism has taken the place of Jim Crow in America. Will the citizenship and Mosque controversies become the barometer which measures America’s racial tolerance?
Conservative talk show hosts have been experimenting for years with the boundaries of acceptable dialogue when it comes to race; however the tone has become more rancorous as of late. From Imus’ “nappy headed hoes,” referring to the Rutgers University women’s basket team, to the recent ease and comfort exhibited by Laura Schlessinger when she rattled off the n-word nearly a dozen times. Is it coincidental that popular so called “shock jocks” are pushing the boundaries of tolerable, social conversation, or are we witnessing the prophetic urgings of the late Harvard Professor, Samuel P. Huntington? In Huntington’s book, Who are We, he predicted a white backlash resulting from their perceived threat by the rise of other ethnic groups: “…the various forces challenging the core American culture and Creed could generate a move by native [white] Americans to revive the discarded and discredited racial and ethnic concepts of American identity and to create an America that would exclude, expel, or suppress people of other racial, ethnic and cultural groups…It could produce a racially intolerant country with high levels of intergroup conflict (Who are We, p. 20).”
Laura Schlessinger’s recent, flagrant use of the n-word on her radio show is an unfortunate demonstration of how far some are willing to go to flirt with what is socially unacceptable. Her use of the n-word may have appeared to be an honest effort to demonstrate the lines of demarcation between its use by black entertainers and white people. However, what she (may have) failed to consider is that the average African American listening to her broadcast would find her mantra of the n-word offensive and obscene. Schlessinger lamented that black comics can use the n-word, but white people can’t, and she used that dichotomy as a spring board to leap into forbidden territory. Chris Rock is paid a lot of money to entertain people, and the n-word is a patented part of his routine; however, one wouldn’t expect him to use it during a local PTA meeting.
Ironically, notwithstanding the years of “reasonable person standard” that Schlessinger has offered to her faithful followers, it was her own breach of this standard of care that has been her undoing, as she has announced that she is resigning from her program at the end of the year so she can regain her first amendment rights. Regain her first amendment rights? How absurd! Is she really saying, “I think I should be able to be insensitive to people of other races, creeds, colors, religions, etc. without a public outcry?” I wonder how she would have responded if I call her syndicated radio program and used the k-word referring to Jews or the c-word referring to whites. I’m not sure, but the notion of a white celebrity claiming that her first amendment rights have been abridged because there was a revolt over her unabashed use of the n-word seems to suggest that perhaps black people need to start looking over their shoulders...again. However, I honestly hope that that is not the case.
NOTE: I personally do not use racial slurs, including the n-word. I disdain them, and I have called for the same leaders who demanded a boycott of Imus and Laura Schlessinger to use their same influence against the rap industry for its vile use of the n-word.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
My favorite political cartoonist, Peter Steiner, had the uncanny knack of capturing the mood of our culture and then etching it in comic irony. When former DC mayor, Anthony Williams, was disqualified from running in the 2002 Democratic primary because more than half of 10,000 signatures on his re-election petition were found to be fraudulent, Steiner stung the mayor with a cartoon that had a whimsical looking campaign worker asking a dog if he wouldn’t mind signing a petition to place Mayor Williams on the ballot. In response to the Bush Administration’s fluctuating of the Threat Alert Level, Steiner published a cartoon of an exhausted security analyst bursting into his boss’s office exclaiming, “Raise the Alert Level! We’ve just received intelligence someone is planning to assassinate President Lincoln!”
Another classic Steiner moments was not long after 9/11 when security measures were increased in nearly all public facilities, he had two Pilgrims stepping through a metal detector and then a Native American waved a hand held metal detector over them, with another Native American saying to her companion in the background, “I feel safer since we stepped up security.”
Since Steiner is retired, I can only guess how he would respond to the Mosque controversy. Perhaps he would have an announcement made that Toyota surpassed GM to become the largest automobile manufacturer on the anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Or maybe he’d have the ghosts of Jesus and Prophet Mohammed discussing ways to improve the behavior of their followers. Or possibly he would simply have the grand wizard of the KKK submit a request for a building permit to build a Church in Mississippi. And let’s not overlook the possibility of him having the murderer of a doctor who performs abortions praying to God with a Bible in his hand while serving time in prison.
Who knows? However, one thing is for sure, just as many Christians would argue that God did not tell an anti-abortion advocate to shoot a physician who performs abortions, many Muslims would also concur that God did not give the 9/11 terrorists authority to bomb America. It goes without saying that there are misguided beliefs in every practice of faith. Does a misguided belief in a religious faith condemn that faith? If so, how do Christians claim allegiance to God and his son Jesus Christ after the Holocaust? Considering the fact that the Catholic Church did not excommunicate any Nazis during World War II, and Hitler claimed to be doing God’s will by exterminating Jews, does the Catholic Church’s complicit conduct during the Holocaust condemn Christianity as a religious faith? Or does the bombing of the World Trade Towers by a group of fanatical Muslims condemn Islam?
Will we as Americans select what is good for the goose, but bad for the gander?
Each time the Mosque controversy comes up, I can’t help but wonder how Geronimo or Sitting Bull or Tecumseh or Crazy Horse would respond to a permit request by European Christians to build a worship center at Wounded Knee. The Mosque controversy is bigger than simply opposition to an Islamic place of worship near “Ground Zero.” It appears be a sign of a rising tide of anti-Muslim sentiment across this nation. According to a recent Time Magazine poll, the mood against Muslims has shifted significantly as of late: the poll found that 43 percent of Americans hold an unfavorable view of Muslims, while less than half that figure have an unfavorable view of Catholics and less than a third of that figure hold unfavorable views of Jews and Protestants.
Certainly some of this rage against Muslims is a residual affect from September 11th; however, I wonder how much of it is the result of hate-filled, anti-Muslim propaganda that has been spewed across the country. A recent email has been circulating that depicts Muslims praying at the intersection of 42nd Street and Madison Avenue in New York City for their traditional Friday Afternoon prayer. However, one didn’t have to look too far to determine that this was a half truth, singed with fraud. These photos were scenes from the Annual New York City’s Muslim Day Parade, where Muslims have been celebrating their faith since 1985. These kinds of half truths got Shirley Sherrod terminated from her position at the Department of Agriculture, and is fanning the flames of Islamic hatred in America.
The anti-Muslim tone that we see in America is gaining momentum, and much of its traction can be credited to propaganda that has been spewed by the conservative community. The late Professor Samuel P. Huntington, in his two-book series on America’s European roots, decried the notion that America was swiftly becoming a multi-cultural nation. In part 2 of his series, titled Who are We, Huntington gave his sanction to an America that would reverse back to its racist past:
“…the various forces challenging the core American culture and Creed could generate a move by native [white] Americans to revive the discarded and discredited racial and ethnic concepts of American identity and to create an America that would exclude, expel, or suppress people of other racial, ethnic and cultural groups. Historical and contemporary experience suggest that this is a highly probably reaction from a once dominant ethnic group that feels threatened by the rise of other groups. It could produce a racially intolerant country with high levels of intergroup conflict (Who are We, p. 20).”
I’ve met many peace-loving Muslims over the years, and I believe that it is essential for all men and women of faith to defend their right to worship peacefully in the spirit of this nation’s Constitution that grants the freedom of religion. How ironic that this same group that is protesting against the Muslims for building a worship center two blocks from the former World Trade Towers have never uttered a word of condemnation for the thousands of witch covens in America.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has reiterated his unequivocal support of the Mosque at a Ramadan dinner he hosted this week. According to a transcript of his remarks, Bloomberg said not building the Mosque “would send a signal around the world that Muslim Americans may be equal in the eyes of the law, but separate in the eyes of their countrymen.” I defend all peace-loving Muslims right to worship anywhere, because if we permit the forces of rage and hate to diminish their right to serve their God, then guess whose rights will be abridged next? I leave that for you to ponder, but I will close with one of my favorites quotes from Dr. Franklin H. Littell, who was a Methodist minister, college professor and Holocaust expert:
First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out--
because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out--
because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out--
because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out--
because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me--
and there was no one left to speak out for me.
Monday, August 2, 2010
I posted this on another social network, FF, a few years ago, and with School around the corner, I thought it might stimulate those of you who have school-age children and/or grandchildren:
My son recently had to do a report on a “great explorer” – Hernando Cortes. I had already cautioned him that the school system would attempt to whitewash the military invasions of Columbus and some of his fellow countrymen by calling them explorations. I had taught him that Columbus and Cortes were invaders and not discoverers, and thankfully he is very vocal about this piece of historical trivia. Part of his project was that he had to provide the flag of the country that financed his so-called “exploration.” The problem is that the governor of Cuba, Diego Velazquez authorized Cortes to go to the east coast of Mexico and scout it out, but do not cause any trouble with the natives. Cortes decided to supersede his authorization and decided to go into Mexico to do battle with the Aztecs. The rest is history: the great Aztec empire fell to Cortes and his band of followers. Since he did not have authority from a country to “explore” the heart of Mexico, my son did not provide a copy of the flag from the country that authorized his “exploration.” He identified this fact in his paper, but his teacher took two points from his score, which caused him to get a B instead of an A. I wrote the instructor a note expressing my displeasure that she would reduce his grade by 2 points, notwithstanding the fact that Cortes was not under any national authority to do what he did. In fact, my son put in the report that the governor of Cuba sent a hit squad to apprehend Cortes after he discovered that he exceeded his authority.
The instructor wrote me back a letter advising that she felt that my son’s grade was fair, because she had told the class that she wanted a flag of the “birth place” of the “explorer.” My son could not recall these instructions, despite the fact that the project information sheet required that the flag of the country that financed the “exploration” be provided. She thanked me for my concern and advised me that if David, Jr. provided a copy of the flag of Cortes’ birth country she would reconsider his grade. Although I felt like going to the mat on this issue, the bigger concern was my son’s paper being reconsidered over a non-relevant issue. He did provide a flag of Spain for reconsideration, but it is clear to me, although I am not sure her motivation, that she and many other educators are helping to whitewash history and is treating the Corteses of the 15th and 16th century as explorers, when many of them were in fact invaders, and the distinctions do not blur.
The greatest colonial merchant in recorded history is Christopher Columbus, and it is no accident that the United States celebrates the anniversary of his arrival on the shores of South America as a national holiday. And it is no accident that Western historians use 1492 as the demarcation between the Medieval Period and the Renaissance. In fact, the commission to attack the "islands and the continent in the ocean" was granted by King Ferdinand, and it is an unambiguous historical fact; yet the history curriculums have replaced invasion with discovery in this regard.
I happened upon the document authorizing Columbus' invasion of South America years ago, in of all places, the souvenir shop at the Empire State Building. (Oh, I have a buddy name Mike who always reminds me that that is why New York is called the "Empire State.") It reads in pertinent part: "For as much of you, Christopher Columbus, are going by our command, with some of our vessels and men, to discover and subdue some Islands and Continent in the ocean, and it is hoped that by God's assistance, some of the said Islands and Continent in the ocean will be discovered and conquered by your means and conduct, therefore it is but just and reasonable, that since you expose yourself to such danger to serve us, you should be rewarded for it. And we being willing to honour and favour you for the reasons aforesaid..."
I've had friendly debates with some friends and colleagues who believe that I was making a mountain out of a molehill. They argue that I should teach my son the truth, but do not raise issues that interfere with his grades, but I counter by saying, "Where will it stop? Today it is grades they want you to compromise on; tomorrow it will be a promotion, and the day after that it will be fame; and the day after that it will be your own survival."