“Make Yours a Happy Home” in 2017

On New Year’s Eve I happened to be driving from Austin Texas back to San Antonio, when a disc jockey on Soul Town 49, Sirius XM Radio (I couldn’t live in San Antonio without XM radio) played one of my favorite songs from the past. My spirits were lifted as I heard the melodic voice of the great Gladys Knight, sang “Make Yours a Happy Home.” Most of you probably know the song comes straight out of the 1975 movie, Claudine, starring Dianne Carroll and James Earl Jones and the musical score was written by Curtis Mayfield. The title to that song is rather simplistic but has profound meaning for all of us. It not only refers to our personal family life, but to the larger community of this country and the world. When we think of the United States as one home with many disparate races, people of different religions and sexual orientations, then it becomes quite clear that we have a gigantic task to try to make our home a happy one.

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Looking back over our history, the years of discontent, anger and turbulence far outweigh the happy ones. This home is always in turmoil and the last year is a perfect example. We just witnessed one of the most contentious political elections in our over two hundred-year-history. As a family with various and differing viewpoints, the presidential race reached deep into the gutter, where congeniality and a decent decorum were lost on both sides of the political spectrum. Much of this dissension is fueled by the age old weakness of racism, a sickness that has plagued this country since its inception.

statue-of-liberty-cryingWith the election of President Barack Obama, we had our best opportunity to actually move forward into a post racial society. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Instead the animosity against Black Americans increased. In his farewell address the President alluded to this problem when he exclaimed, “Race remains a potent and often divisive force in our society. Every economic issue is framed as a struggle between a hard working white middle class and undeserving minorities.”  That anger also manifests against religious groups, our LBGT community, our neighbors south of the border, and for the first time in our history a certain segment of the population insisted on a wall to divide the countries. I imagine the Statue of Liberty must be shedding a few tears, for the democracy she once represented. The home that she watched over for over a century is in turmoil. King’s dream has actually become Malcolm X’s nightmare.

The United States has always welcomed most racial groups of the world, as well as most religions, people with various sexual preferences, and various cultures to its shores. That makes this country one of the greatest experiments in civilized history. Never before have so many different men, women and children lived under one roof and had to make theirs a happy home. As this country prepares to turn over the power to a man whose success was built on feeding our differences and not what we have in common, the next four years may test this experiment in ways that none of us have ever known. We may become a much more dysfunctional family, during this president’s tenure.

What is just as depressing to this writer is the savagery that has plagued my community. The fact that police all over this country have decided to use our young for target practice is bad enough, but it becomes even a greater crisis when our young do the same to each other. Seven hundred black men, women and children murdered in Chicago, surely tells us that ours is not a happy home.

The major question that confronts all of us is whether we can endure, and will this experiment in civilization ultimately be successful. Given the history of the world, we are still a very young country; the new kids on the block. But we have a tendency to stick our chest out at the rest of the world and brag about our great political and economic system. That claim may be rather premature. Given the direction in which we seem to be going, the future looks rather dismal and we may not survive the test of time.

However, hope is the one universal principal that most writers must possess. In order to create good literature, the writer must look beyond the world as it is and write about a world that can be much better for all the inhabitants. If we would adapt that principle, then maybe our condition can change and even survive the next four years, free of any additional turmoil than what we have faced for the past year. And just maybe this experiment in history will endure, and sometime in the future we can sing along with Gladys Knight to “Make Yours a Happy Home.”

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A POX on Both Their Houses

In a recent Reuters Poll conducted between March and June 2016, 16,000 European Americans were interviewed regarding their perceptions of African Americans. The poll was a result of both political candidates for President throwing negative comments at each other, regarding their positions on racial issues. Donald Trump has called Hillary Clinton a bigot because of her failure to support any meaningful change for Blacks. And Hillary Clinton accused Trump of normalizing white nationalism, and his failure to reject outright support from racist David Duke.

The European Americans involved in the poll were divided between those who support Trump and the ones supporting Clinton. Both groups were asked the identical questions, and the results are staggering.

32% of Trump supporters viewed Blacks as less intelligent than whites.

40% of Trump supporters viewed Blacks as more lazy than whites.

44% of Trump supporters viewed Blacks as more rude than whites.

49% of Trump supporters viewed Blacks as more violent than whites.

46% of Trump supporters viewed Blacks as more criminal than whites.

Now we might argue that these statistics are not that surprising coming from Trump supporters, but what makes this poll so frightening is when the same questions were asked of Clinton supporters.

22% of Clinton supporters viewed Blacks as less intelligent than whites.

25% of Clinton supporters viewed Blacks as more lazy than whites.

30% of Clinton supporters viewed Blacks as more rude than whites.

31% of Clinton supporters viewed Blacks as more violent than whites.

32% of Clinton supporters viewed Blacks as more criminal than whites.

When we remove the Trump/Clinton factor and combine the two groups as one, it becomes very clear that a large percentage of European Americans’ perception of Black Americans is anything but acceptable. This absolutely staggering arrogance from a race of people that have no right to make such assumptions, is overwhelming. When we view each of these characteristics over time, it becomes very clear that European Americans suffer from a serious case of hubris.

These findings are so ludicrous I shouldn’t bother to even respond. But at some point, you begin to seriously wonder for how long can these distortions of reality continue to exist within the minds of European Americans? Are they so narcissistic that they actually believe their perceived superiority over Blacks in each of the listed categories? Probably not one of the 16,000 could come close to matching the intelligence of a Dr. W. E. B. Du Bois, Dr. Ralph Bunche, Dr. Cornell West, Johnnie Cochran, President Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, and the list of brilliant African Americans could go on for page after page.

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The perception that Blacks are lazier than European Americans would be laughable if it wasn’t so pathetic. African Americans have always been hard working men and women. How do you think it was possible for slave owners to spend the afternoon drinking mint juleps, and at night raping Black women if the African American wasn’t doing all the work? After slavery, the same pattern continued under share cropping. Because of a skewed economic system in which most of the wealth and land has accrued to European Americans, Black Americans have always had to work harder for less economic gain in this county. Our ancestors had to, “make a way out of no way.” They worked longer hours for less reward but never gave up on life. And work, we have for generations.
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colin-kaepernickCan someone please explain to me how you measure rudeness? Who determines when an individual is being rude? I guess Sandra Bland was being rude when she refused to put out her cigarette in her own car. I guess San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick is being rude because he refuses to stand for the National Anthem. Maybe Tommie Smith and John Carlos were also being rude when they held up gloved clinch fists, while the National Anthem was being played at the 1968 Olympics. Or maybe Muhammed Ali was rude, tossing his Gold Medal in the river when he returned from the 1960 Olympics and was so disgusted with how his people were being treated. It might be something much simpler than that. We no longer tip our hat to white folks when we pass them on the street, or don’t bow our heads when coming in contact with a white woman. And we no longer say “yes suh, yes ma’am, when responding to some European Americans question. And we have the nerve to get on the bus and sit wherever we want, instead of waiting for European Americans to board first and take their seat. The same holds true for trains and airplanes.

The category dealing with violence was the most shocking of all. The pogrom of Native Americans, the slaughter of millions of Africans in the middle passage from Africa, the brutal treatment of Blacks during slavery and the incredible large number of lynching of Blacks, Hispanics and yes some European Americans (they lynched their own people) makes a mockery of the findings in this category. European Americans undoubtedly rank at the very top of the list of violent people in modern civilization.

Finally, there is no worst crime in the history of civilizations than stealing someone’s freedom. It is estimated that up 25 to 50 million Africans were taken from their homes and forced on slave ships, where approximately half died before they reached the shores of America. That was murder and murder is a crime. And if that is not sufficient to establish that no race has committed more crimes than European Americans, then the beating, raping, and often killing of African Americans during and after slavery as well as the shooting and killing of over 130 Blacks in the first six months of 2016 by the police, should be. How about the slaughter of innocent Native Americans over the centuries, based on the concept of “white man’s burden,” or “manifest destiny” as additional proof?

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Under the concept of hubris, an individual (or a larger body of people) will deflect their own insecurities and weaknesses to another person or body of people. That is exactly what European Americans have done for decades, and usually the recipients of those insecurities have been Blacks. The findings in the study done by Reuters proves that same practice still exists. My larger problem is that these people make up a substantial percentage of those who support the two primary presidential candidates. And because they do and I am not sure the candidates care about these perceptions among their followers, borrowing from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliette, I say, “A pox on both their houses.”

Trump’s Code Word Appeal—“Make America Great Again!”

Richard M. Nixon, candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, is seen arriving at the airport in Atlanta, Ga. with his wife, Patricia, on May 31, 1968. A crowd of about 350 people greeted them as Nixon visits the South to meet with delegates from various states. (AP Photo)In what has become a rather famous or some may consider infamous interview in 1981, leading Ronald Reagan political strategist Lee Atwater, discussed plans of the Republican Party to win the white Southern vote over to the Republican Party. His approach was for the party to appeal to those issues most closely identified with Southern Conservatives who abhorred the changes that occurred in the South during the 1960’s. It was called Nixon’s Southern Strategy. The idea was for the candidate to be only lukewarm in his duties to implement those policies passed in the 1964 Civil Rights Bill and the 1965 Voting Rights Bill. This could be accomplished if the candidates simply pledged strong support for states’ rights. That term became the first in a number of codes to the Southern whites, that assured them the candidate was firmly entrenched in their corner for a return to the good old days.

Reagan took full advantage of the strategy when he coined terms such as “Welfare Queen.” And practically every Republican politician since has used the code word “Big Government” to express their support for cutting back on programs that have essentially protected the rights of Blacks and  other minorities in this country.

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Now in the political year 2016 we have the Republican candidate for president playing that same old game with codes. Donald Trump has coined the term “Make America Great Again,” and it has resonated well with a certain segment of the white male population, especially in the South and it carried him through the primaries to a victory. The term “Make America Great Again” creates visions of the past that excites Trump supporters like they have not been since Reagan’s “Shining City on a Hill.”

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The problem is that the population enamored by Trump’s promises, consists of those white Americans whose beliefs and practices are inimical to the continued growth and development of our country as a totally integrated and fair society. This particular segment of America, under the tutelage of right wing conservative commentators like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, dream of a return to a time when America was not great, and that is the irony of their efforts.

9b53cfe968a9afc85f26c5f1f26915bf_crop_northNo doubt this crowd longs for the days when white supremacy reigned economically, socially and politically. In their world, Rocky, the Great White Hope, really did beat Apollo Creed and the statue at the top of the steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art is real. In their world, a Larry Bird led Boston Celtics could easily defeat a Michael Jordan led Chicago Bulls, and Tiger Woods couldn’t even carry Jack Nicklaus’ golf bag and there is no way that Serena Williams could tie Steffi Graf’s modern day record of 22 major tennis victories. And most important, in their world President Barack Obama was born in Kenya and never should have been able to serve as President of the United States, and no way Michelle Obama should be First Lady and as gracious, poised and beautiful as any other First Lady to include Nancy Reagan and Jaqueline Kennedy.

hbz-obamas-gettyimages-84379057This is the world that Donald Trump promises his followers and it is their perception of the code “Make America Great Again.” The problem with that particular America is that its premise for greatness is predicated on the color of one’s skin and not the content of one’s character. It paints all other people in a negative light, the Mexican drug lord who wants to come to America to rape and pillage, the Muslim who has to be a terrorist simply because of his religious affiliation, women who have forgotten their place in society, and of course Black Americans who don’t want to work or raise their families and have lost all semblance of a decent and honorable culture. To Trump and his followers all that is necessary is to eradicate these negatives and they will have accomplished their goal to “Make America Great Again.”

The Delusional and Irrational Behavior of Certain European Americans

The attitudes and behavior of a certain segment of the European American population in this country becomes absolutely irrational, to the point of delusional when they must confront their relationship with African Americans. It is just amazing how a race of people can accomplish so many outstanding undertakings, but become totally nonsensical and almost obsessed with an aversion toward Black people. History is filled with their inability to accept the fact that they are not superior to others. And because they cannot make that grand leap, it forces them to say the most asinine things as they defend their assumption of superiority. This problem surfaced heavily right after Reconstruction, and with the attempt of European Americans to control the definition of the races. One of the leading scholars on the period, Professor Leon Litwack, captured this deviation from reality when he wrote, “The history to which Black children were exposed in the classroom and the primers made a virtual gospel of the superiority of Anglo-Saxon institutions and ways of thinking and acting. What little they learned of their own history consisted often of disparaging caricatures of Black people as the least civilized of the races—irresponsible, thoughtless, foolish, childlike people, satisfied with their lowly place in American life, incapable of self-control and self-direction.” That statement was blatantly false and not grounded in any factual evidence, other than the need for the European American to feed his own weak ego at the expense of others.

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I can imagine how devastating it was to those people when Blacks began to rack up achievement after achievement over the years. How they must have looked on in amazement as Jimmy Winfield, a Black man, won the first Kentucky Derby. In fact, fifteen of the first twenty-eight Derbies were won by Black Jockeys. And the greatest jockey in the history of the sport was Isaac Murphy, who won three Derby races and 44% of all his races throughout his career. Jack Johnson forced the European Americans to seek out a “Great White Hope,” to save their dignity and preserve their lie of superiority. Jackie Robinson sent tremors throughout the entire European American consciousness, when he proved that Black ball players were equal in skills and often better than their white counterpart.

Black Americans continued to rack up accomplishments not only in sports but science, medicine, and the arts. It finally reached its apex with the election of President Barack Obama and the irrational and delusional behavior could no longer be controlled. It exploded in earnest for the entire world to observe when Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell declared his only goal was to make President Obama a one term President, and that was on the first day of his inauguration. What happened to the traditional “honeymoon period” granted all other Presidents when they first took office? The irrational behavior of a Republican controlled Congress continued after passage of Obamacare, as the House of Representatives introduced over fifty bills to repeal that law, and invited a head of state from Israel to speak to the Congress, an obvious lack of respect for the President. For the past seven years, the President has been accused of being a dictator, a Black Muslim, born in Africa, he hates America, he wants to destroy democracy and shows more respect to the foreign dignitaries in Middle East countries than he does to America’s friends in Europe. That is all irrational behavior by any measurement.

Now as an election year approaches we are witnessing a bunch of Republican candidates, who constantly try to be more irrational than the next one. Their lack of respect for Black America is not quite as blatant as their counterparts in the 19th Century, but it still exists. Their intent is clear, they accept the attacks on President Obama as legitimate. When candidate Carlie Fioriana failed to refute a man’s attack on the President in New Hampshire when he declared Obama to be a dictator, hates America and is a member of the Nation of Islam, she became just as guilty of irrationality and just as delusional. None of the candidates have challenged Donald Trump’s ridiculous charges for years that the President was not an American citizen, and he was hiding some great failure as a college student when he failed to reveal his transcripts.

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This irrational and delusional behavior is not confined to the national level. It exists right here in San Antonio, and has materialized in the struggle to change the name Robert E. Lee from a local high school as well as a statue of the traitor general on the campus. In response to a commentary I did for Black Video News on the subject of Lee, someone wrote, “Blacks so loved General Lee that they stayed on and worked for him after the Civil War.” But for the fact that I recognized this person as one of the European Americans suffering from serious delusions of grandeur, his comment may have angered me. But that is the arrogance that is associated with the irrational behavior. I did refute his statement with a quote from a former slave, George Conrad, who told one of the researchers with the Federal Writers’ Project in 1939, that “Mr. (Abraham) Lincoln was sure a wonderful man. He did what God put him here to do, took bondage off the colored people and set them free. Mr. (Robert E.) Lee sure didn’t leave no such record behind him. They tells me before he died he had a mule and a (slave) brought before him and he told the folks to protect the mule and to keep the (slave) down.”

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I don’t really expect my repudiation of that pro-Lee supporter’s statement will affect him at all. Because he is so far lost in his own delusional thinking that nothing can change his myth of white superiority and his need to be important at the expense of others. It is a sickness that a certain segment of the European population has suffered from since they first invaded the continent of Africa and brutalized the people. And it just won’t go away.