Posts Tagged ‘race’

Shades of Color

As I watched the election unfold, and the reaction (mine and others) since then, I realize that compared to many, I’m very lucky.  As I look at the friends and acquaintances I have through the variety of my connections, they run an interesting spectrum of colors from far right to far left.


I have friends to the right of me.  Far, far more to the right than I, both politically and religiously. I know folks who believe the Bible literally in every aspect, others who are strong believers in the Doctrine of Ultimate Depravity (which is almost as scary as it sounds). A couple are fervent advocates of the 2nd Amendment above almost all other rights.  And there are others who are just biased (pick a category, every category) and focused only on themselves.

I have friends to the left of me, some to the far left of me.  I’ve known some who are gay or bisexual, while others are ethically polyamorous.  Some are agnostics, some atheists, some just seeking or defining their own higher power. And there are those who are gamers, cosplayers, and even a couple of friends who are furries (look that one up if you don’t know it 🙂 )

Each one gives me aspects of their lives to think about. Each adds a shade, a color, a nuance, a perspective to my own view or positions.  My views on abortion, gay/LGBTQ+ rights, alternative lifestyles, have all changed by knowing people in those communities. There has been at least one case where a columnist has helped me to understand the view of the world from the life of someone of a different color.  In the end, what I had been harboring as a white,male, hardcore fundamentalist view has broadened to include, and care about, a variety of others that I didn’t know before.  It seems difficult, if you don’t know anyone outside of your pale, your tribe, your mindset, to appreciate the diversity as much as you can with broader contacts.

I’m glad for shades of color that help broaden and enliven my world.


Not Ready

The day here is cold, wet, and gray.  It matches my mood after the shock of waking up this morning to the posts on Facebook, and the news on the radio (pretty old-fashioned, aren’t I, to still be listening to radio 🙂 )

We weren’t ready.  I’ve thought that for a while, but this proves it.  We weren’t ready.

No, it had nothing to do with HRC.  We really weren’t ready to elect an African-American with a name that sounded like it came from the homeland of foreign religious extremists.

I think this election is the backlash (or the whitelash, as someone referred to it) to the racism that has been festering for eight years. From the very beginning of President Obama’s term in office, there were so very many people and politicians who were unable or unwilling to accept the election of a black man to president.  The efforts lasted all 8 years. The long discredited birther theory.  The long discredited rumors that he was Muslim.  The inability to work with him on any level (ironically, coming from those who now say we should unite and support the new president-elect). The subtle, unintentional (snort) efforts to portray him as simian, as stupid, as communist, as socialist.  The same opposition and hatred would not have been displayed to a Senator Kennedy for the same policies.

I remember when I was in 4th grade, at school in the deep South, participating in a Thanksgiving play.  The sole black boy in my grade (not just class, grade) was given the role of janitor in the play.  I was an adult before when recalling that event, it occurred to me what had happened, and I realized the racism which existed that was invisible to me as a child.

The pendulum swung very far with the election of President Obama.  I certainly didn’t expect to see it in my life; I still remember the times of institutional discrimination, overt racism, and the discrimination that existed growing up.  It hasn’t gone away just because of time.  It hasn’t gone away at all.  It has now expanded to include Hispanics, Africans, Muslims, alternative sexuality….almost anyone who isn’t like the old order in this country.

We weren’t ready to elect a woman president, because we hadn’t recovered from the pendulum swing of electing a black president.  Or because we didn’t realize that we needed to recover from it.  Maybe this will be the pendulum swinging the other way, and we can hang on until we reach a more moderate middle ground.

God help us until then.

Lose-Lose :(

Well, I voted.


I hope this is the most objectionable election I ever have to go through, because I doubt I can take it getting worse. A pox on both their houses (little me bring a little Shakespearian civility into this at least).

And to make matters worse, I know this is a lose-lose proposition.

One candidate has no governmental experience, or working in collaborative environments.  Worse, there is frequently a thinly disguised vein of woeful contempt for the government, along with a lack of understanding of how it works. Practically unforgivable is the calling of the election process rigged, poisoning the well of the American process as well as public opinion before any voting begins. Combined with a tendency for impolite, impolitic, downright rude verbal proclamations, and the dysfunctional mess that is our current Congress will only get worse.

The other candidate has a stellar resume, yet has made some jarringly poor decisions. On top of that, the candidate bears the stigma of gender, of following the first African-American president, and her own spouses baggage. We’ve had eight years of showing we weren’t ready for a racial minority as president; I can only imagine how a gender trend setter will be viewed.  The opposition is already talking about impeachment hearings and trials, before the election even begins — the same opposition that has spent the past 8 years raising issues of birth, religion, and anything else to inhibit the process of government.

It’s lose-lose.  No matter who wins, there will be little in the way of civility or effective progress in the next four years.

Unexpected Outburst

The fact that I was so close to the outburst, plus its location, combined to shock me.

I was in the East Columbia library on Tuesday.  Lots of folks were in the library, and all the computers were in use.  I ended up using one of the stand up reference computers for the quick check I wanted to do.  Behind me I was aware of a Hispanic man (I’ll call him H1) at one computer, and a bookbag on the chair of the other.  With school having just released,I’d assumed one of the students had dropped their bag before heading to the bathroom or to grab a resource.

As I was working, I became aware of the voices behind me.  Doing a half-turn, I saw a well dressed, mid-50’s salt and pepper haired African-American man (let me call him A1) looking for a computer.  He had passed by, and had returned.  “Is someone sitting here?” he asked of the decade-older Hispanic man.  “Someone is coming” was his response.  At which point I heard M1 heavily drop the bookbag on the table and make some pronouncement that since no one was there he was going to use it.  The tone, authoritative, articulate, and yet loud and powerful, carried more than a hint of anger and animus. H1 made a comment about having a little respect, in a slightly slurred, flippant low tone.  And that’s when the dust-up began.

What followed was an embarrassment, as A1 proceeded to call H1 a “genetically inferior half-breed of white scum”….and more that I won’t print. A1 insisted he had a “legal right” to use the computer and proceeded to not only carry on the initial tone of the dust-up but to suggest that H1 “step outside and settle this” while berating him.  To his credit, H1 , with some humor in his tone, told him to go outside and wait for him.  A1 continued, with the tirade, the insults to the other man included disparaging his mother and continuing to call him white scum.  I ended up leaving during the dust-up.

The event surprised me in several ways.  I was shocked to hear this in Columbia.  This is a very ethnically diverse, generally liberal town that has never outgrown its almost hippy flavor and feel.  To hear such racial disparagement was shocking.  It was also a shock to hear it from someone who, based on appearance and language, was an educated, articulate, upper middle class, middle-aged man. The dichotomy was so strange — appearance of class, with the actions of unclass.  As they say, never judge a book by its cover.

And while it surprised me that no one comment, interceded, intervened, the bigger surprise was my lack of response at the time. Looking back on it, I realize I should have stepped forward and tried to defuse the situation. I should have stepped forward and defended the one set-upon.  But I didn’t.  I don’t know if it was fear, or embarrassment, or just not having thought about it before.  Or all three.  I’d like to think that it was a scene that just caught me off guard, although that may be granting me more absolution than I deserve.

Still, it does cause to think, and wonder, about the state of affairs where this could happen in a place I’ve been for 30 years.  Choose Civility…..(sigh)


Faded to Gray….

There will be no more trials in the case of the death of Freddie Gray.  The District Attorney has decided not to pursue the last trials, or to retrial the officer in the mistrial.

And so it ends.  Miserably. Unsatisfactorily.

First up, there was no excuse for the riots that Baltimore experienced.  It gained nothing, it proved nothing, it cost only those who had little and caused many to lose what little they had.  The style of leadership and protest that involved large, controlled, articulate demonstrations has been replaced with a mob mentality of loudest voices and physical damage.  King, Abernathy, Young….those were leaders who could march and inspire and lead and articulate.  There seems to be precious little of that anymore.

Second, there are too many questions still unanswered.  Even from my standpoint (suburban white boy), I wonder what happened.  Who made the bad decisions. Who went along them, who knows something but isn’t saying.  Freddie Gray shouldn’t have died as a result of that trip to central booking.  Something went wrong, something that we still can’t clearly identify and be confident in.  He wasn’t a saint, but nothing he did was sufficient to suggest he should die.  And I blame the Baltimore State’s Attorney for those failures, for not only not finding the facts and the truth but for further obfuscating it.  A properly done investigation would have answered many of those questions, perhaps enough to paint a correct picture.  But in a rush to indict, in a rush to center stage, the truth and the facts were forever lost.  As was justice.

The wounds will take a long time to heal, all the way around.  If they can heal.  The community has lost the opportunity to gain confidence in the system; to know what happened to expect the appropriate legal intervention. The police have lost confidence in the system too, to believe that the DA acts as an agent of inquiry and justice.  Now, both the community and the police have no confidence in the prosecutor and the process.

When you find yourself in a deep hole, the first thing to do is to stop digging.  We have yet to figure out how to stop digging deeper holes for ourselves.




The last couple of days have been an incredible roller coaster of news, reaction and emotion.  Even for someone who is normally even-keeled and calm about events (except for Fukushima, which scared the **** out of me) , I have found the last couple of days to be unsettling and unacceptable.


I’ve watched the video from Baton Rouge.  I’ve seen it in slow motion, freeze framed it.  I’ve listened to the sound track, watched the officers, watched the victim.  I’ve tried to put myself in the place of the responding officers, in the churn that occurs during a melee. I watched the struggle cause the car they up against to rock back and forth, watched two officers on top of the victim, watched the victim’s hand stretch out wide.  Watched the officer pull a gun and put it against the victim’s chest.  Watched the gaping, bloody wound and last gurgling gasp on the video. And tried to understand what I saw…

It was murder.

A stop due to a broken tail-light on a car in Minnesota with  a man still in the car, shot and killed as deliberately as the victim in Charleston SC running on foot from a stop for a burned out tail light.

And then Dallas.  Cold blooded, calculated, inexcusable, mass murder. Five police officers ambushed, targeted, murdered.

We are losing our collective minds as a civilized society.  Hate is winning.  Violence is winning.  Racism is winning.

There are no simple answers, no simple solutions. Not even close. NOT. EVEN. CLOSE. Everyone has to get out of their entrenched, dug-in, hardened, unyielding positions on race, police, guns.

Race– Whites do not understand the issues of DWB (driving while black), or of the looks given to any black boy, man-boy, or adult who doesn’t look like us.  They do not understand the inherent bias of much of society that exists despite a black President, Attorney General, former Secretary of State, governors, mayors, judges.  They do not understand disparity in wages, jobs, sentences, that occur when the person is white compared to black.

Blacks do not understand the issues of cultural isolation, thug-life, drug life, basis of stereotypes that they need to own up to and correct.  Blacks do not understand the impact of the double standard between the lack of outrage at black-on-black violence and white-on-black.  They do not understand the impact of calling your homie a nigga when a white is called out on it.  They do not understand that they have a role to play in educating all of society in a civilized way of the issues faced.

Police – The vast, vast majority of police are tremendous, outstanding, public servants.  They give of themselves, down to the last breath of life, protecting the people, the society that we live in – that we ALL live in.  Without them it would truly be a wild west, with the anarchy and bloodshed that exists in the failed country-states of South and Central America, horn of Africa, and Mideast.

Too often they are killed by idiots, thugs and punks in situations where no normal person would expect it…at a restaurant in Hartford County, coming out of the station in Prince George’s County, sitting in a squad car in New York City. At a march in Dallas.  These deaths are unacceptable, indefensible.

The police need to understand that the rule of silence can no longer be tolerated, that those who are racist, violence-loving, power-tripping or just not competent and skilled enough at their job need to be reported, redirected, retrained or removed.  They are not just a blight, they are a massive cancer because the few are truly destroying the reputation of the many.

Guns – We need to end the love affair with guns that is romanticized in movies and music videos.  They aren’t cool, they aren’t hip, they aren’t acceptable except in some specific realms of sport and hunting.  We need to recognize that there is something between banning everything and allowing everything.  More people with them isn’t the answer.  Louisiana is an open carry state, and nothing was done to see if Alton Stirling was legally carrying. Philando Castile had a permit to carry in an open carry state, but was shot dead anyway.  More people carrying guns will cause more problems for the police, and lead to more deaths of innocent people (whether they are totally innocent or innocent of anything close to a capital crime)

I don’t know what the answer is.  But we damn sight need to start working on it.  Why isn’t every police organization in the country revisiting officer training for confronting suspects?  Why isn’t the NRA helping fund officer training for dealing with confrontational situations? Why aren’t the vocal police critics in the film and music industries funding body cameras for major departments?  Why aren’t politicians standing up to the one-issue megaphones who only want to blame police, guns, blacks, whites, etc. How can we get past the them-against-us mentality that keeps us entrenched in our bunker positions?

I need to stop, think, and find my own way to engage with my community (which is very racially diverse but separated), my police, and my government. Even if it is as small a first step as speaking to those of a different race that I pass on my walks. We all need to do something.  We need to stop feeding the fires, and start finding solutions.

Or we will lose civilization.





The blog that I read on a friend’s Facebook timeline caught my attention and caused me to think a lot about perspectives, about race, about the world and it’s attitude. The blog is by Steve Locke, a professor at Massachusetts College of Art and Design.

It’s the story of his encounter with the police on the streets of Boston.  As I read it, I saw perhaps much more clearly than on most occasions, the differences in perspective between the public and the police, between whites and blacks.  How a single event is so shaped, so colored (word play intentional) by the race of the people and by the social/political/power standing of the people.

If I read the story from the standpoint of the police, they are respectful in tone and words.  They are doing their job.  This is how they deal with people.  They have to protect themselves.  They have a possible suspect, and as such someone who must be viewed as possibly dangerous to their own safety.  They respond appropriately to protect themselves in numbers and posture while verifying the identity of the person who fits the description.  They apologize for disrupting his lunch.  They no doubt think that they have handled this well.

Reading the story from the standpoint of Steve, this looks way too much like the type of events we’ve read about and seen with greater frequency far too often recently. A black (professional, educated, innocent) man stopped on the street.  The unsnapping of the holster as a message of intimidation and the threat of deadly force. Additional police approaching in numbers.  Statements not accepted, not taken into consideration in how the scene should go.  The expressed possibility of being taken for a ride in a squad car to some unknown place, with no one who knows you are being taken and no one to corroborate possible actions.  Yet he handled it well; he provides short, on-point answers, announcing what he needs to do to comply (reach for the wallet, reach for the keys).  He avoids profanity, aggressive language or combative signals.

I find fault with the police with one clear point, the unsnapping of the holster.  The crime that started this confrontation was an attempted breaking and entering, and yet here on the street a weapon is unsnapped and made ready for quick access….and perhaps too quickly accessed in an era where there have been too many obvious over-escalation of events.

I find fault with Steve in what he expresses as his mental state, when he reaches the conclusion he is going to die.  The conclusion is based on him knowing that he will not allow himself to be taken to some unknown location to have some victim decide if he did or didn’t break into her home, that he will resist arrest.  THAT is not a good mindset for any detainee, particularly not in this situation.  Attitudes are transmitted, and can lead to confrontation….and very bad outcomes.

This does provide a good learning opportunity, if we can make the effort to learn from it.  Each party approaches from their own background.  Each is doing what they think is appropriate.  And while no one was physically harmed this time, it had the possibility.  How often is this scene played out when someone IS hurt?  How would any person (black or white, rich or poor) respond to being stopped in the street by the police for something that the person KNOWS hasn’t possibly involved them?  At what point would any of us stop thinking in a rational manner and start responding in a flight or fright mode because we are afraid, because we are intimidated, because the situation triggers something in us?  When anyone in authority stops us or challenges us, don’t we all react defensively, annoyed, embarrassed, etc.?  And at what point does an officer respond to something he sees, perceives, feels about a situation, knowing that it is the little things that frequently make the difference between life and death in his position?

I don’t have a solution.  I just know both sides need to rethink where they are, how they respond, how they judge.  Too often we see things only from our own bias and perspective, and the isolation of our own head.  We really need to more often consider the event from the perspective of others.  Maybe then we could move past the single-minded focus each side has of painting the other side as wrong.

Maybe both need to change.  Or think.