Caping Up for Corruption: How Harvey Exposed Joel and His Osteens

Social media is a funny thing. It’s like the weather. It can be massive, beautiful, serene, rough, deceitful, unpredictable and most of all persistently undefeated. If you live long enough surely you will witness or experience all of it’s glory and terror.

Such is the case as Hurricane Harvey laboriously rained down on Southeast Texas causing gargantuan flooding previously unseen in the history of American soil. As the death toll increases and the displaced are multiplied by tens of thousands, copious amounts of citizens in the affected areas have transformed themselves into super heroes. Untrained in the skills of rescue they have pulled people from the dredge of the water’s unmerciful all-consuming invasion. People have been snatched out of vehicles, homes, rooftops, taking nothing but the clothes on their backs. A furniture store owner converted his warehouse into a shelter. He reassigned mattresses slated to be sold for profit into beds to comfort the displaced and afflicted. A multitude of citizens from around the country have converged to the flooded areas, donated monies and or supplies providing for basic human needs. As calamitous as Harvey’s wrath has been, like other grievous events in American and human history, ordinary citizens have shown extraordinary amounts of resolution to help mostly total strangers simply out of conscious.

And then there was Joel Osteen and his Lakewood Church. As the floods increased and dry spaces decreased, Lakewood’s building (formerly the Compaq Center, home of the NBA’s Houston Rockets) was reticent to open it’s doors to the displaced. Twitter got ahold of that story and tore into the mega church pastor shaming him before the world. Subsequently, Lakewood’s PR team reacted quickly in claiming on its own social media spaces that the church was flooded. They even went as far as posting photos of a flooded building to news stations to illustrate they’re inability to open its doors. Where the PR team failed is in not recognizing the aforementioned point. The internet is undefeated. I could have told them that lie would be quickly dispelled. It took only hours to confirm that the building was not flooded on the days in question and the church had to backtrack. Lakewood was pressured into opening its doors. Mr. Osteen made the rounds on network and cable news programs claiming that the church was open and willing to serve their suffering neighbors all along.

The intent of this article is not to criticize Mr. Osteen. I’ve already done that within my social media spaces. I’ve expressed that it’s all fun and games when you get to play ministry and collect the spoils thereof. But when it comes to receiving dirty smelly and desperate strangers into your well maintained and polished made for TV acropolis, that’s a reality of alternative dimensions. Regardless of how I feel about his initial decision, its his building to do with it as he pleases.

Or is it?

What struck me as much as the contempt I feel about Osteen’s initial inaction, was the comments I read from his Christian followers to the righteous criticisms he received. Their response was not to encourage their beloved minister to action. Instead, they yielding a shield to protect Osteen from his Twitter beating and made excuses for why America’s pastor didn’t step up. First it was the flood that was initially claimed by the ministry spokespeople. After that was debunked it was how Lakewood was not staffed to handle such a magnitude of people. “Remember the Superdome,” one exclaimed, referencing the debacle during Hurricane Katrina. I even read where Christians challenged the Muslim community by asking, “How many mosques were opened to house the displaced and why aren’t they being taken to the woodshed?” That statement received many affirmative responses. “Good question,” many chimed in. One person even Google searched how many Mosques are in the Houston metropolitan area.

I couldn’t resist the urge to respond. *Paraphrasing: “Yes that is a great question. Now follow that up with how many mosque can seat 16,800 like Lakewood can? Hell how many can seat 1000? You act as if people are picking on poor ole Joel. But there are substantially more churches in any major American metropolitan city than there are mosques. Yet they don’t have the capacity to house as many as Lakewood even if they have managed to avoid being flooded. Therefore they are not being criticized. The issue is not Joel it’s the space he has access to and previously denied to the incredibly needy. What I find troubling is that instead of standing up for your fellow American citizens who are struggling in harm’s way, most who have lost all of their worldly possessions, with no place to go after the waters recede, souls who Jesus cares about according to your faith, you would rather defend a man who initially lied about providing a temporary safe space to them, than to encourage if not demand he live up to the true calling of the ministry. Why is that?” 

So far, crickets.

But this is a consistent theme in religious circles. Parishioners and people of faith are often so protective of their leaders that they often allow them to get away with heinous acts. They refuse to hold them accountable thereby making them untouchable. Accountability is a two way street. But often the faithful fork over the integrity they are charged to have as they occupy the pews on Sunday morning. When those outside their faith in turn point out malfeasance, instead of reflection they offer deflection.  This is how an Eddie Long could maintain a ministry despite his predatory sexual relations with young men he was supposed to be mentoring.  It’s how a Creflo Dollar can ask his church members (most of whom are of lower to middle class) to pay for a private jet. It’s how a Mark Burns, Steve Parson and Harry Jackson, just to name a few, can sell their ministerial souls to capitalism and Donald Trump, no matter what #45 he says or does, and maintain a thriving African-American membership. They exchange the charge of being fully functioning parishioners to become cult-like sycophants. This isn’t just a national issue. It’s a local one as well.

I argue that if you love Joel and respect his ministry, challenge him when he’s wrong and help him to be a better minister. This could have been a lesson for him. But Christians dropped the ball in their defense of him and allowed Twitter to become the taskmaster instead. Many won’t even admit that he lied about the flooding. How crazy is that? The church missed an opportunity towards spiritual growth. The “World” did their job for them. Mr. Osteen doesn’t get better as a minister or a leader because he can hide under the blanket of being bullied by the world.

A great friend of mine often says, “You get the leadership you deserve!” This isn’t just for ministry. It’s for politics as well. Far too many of us stand by and offer nothing of substance to shape a leadership that will work in our interest, and then complain about the results.

It’s OK to hold leaders up and esteem them; including those in ministry. However, we must be careful to kill our sacred cows. If not, we become willing sheep ready for the slaughter.

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Ok Middle Class White Male, Let’s Talk About It Then

To My White Middle Class Friends and Acquaintances: This one is all about you.  Let me start with some words spoken by the outgoing President.  These quotes are from his last speech.

If every economic issue is framed as a struggle between a hardworking white middle class and an undeserving minority, then workers of all shades are going to be left fighting for scraps while the wealthy withdraw further into their private enclaves.

For blacks and other minority groups, it means tying our own very real struggles for justice to the challenges that a lot of people in this country face — not only the refugee, or the immigrant, or the rural poor, or the transgender American, but also the middle-aged white guy who, from the outside, may seem like he’s got advantages, but has seen his world upended by economic and cultural and technological change. We have to pay attention, and listen.

I’ve heard the dialogue for the last several years:

White males in this country feel left out.  The ‘left’ only care about their liberal sensibilities which include minorities and immigrants.  Since 2008 we have been neglected and our interest are no longer prioritized.  This is why I voted for Donald Trump. I may not agree with everything he says.  But he cares about the needs of me and my family. 

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I have found these sentiments both alarming and insulting.  There are a plethora of reasons that I won’t get into as this is not about me.  Against my first thought I recently picked up and read a book called, “Hillbilly Elegy,” A Memoir of A Family and Culture In Crisis, written by J.D. Vance.  The book focused on what would seem to be the idea Trump voter.  Vance grew up in Rust Belt towns in Kentucky and Ohio.  They are the epitome of  America’s white working class America.  I was hesitant to give it the time of day initially.  I knew that Vance was going to attempt to explain a group of people who have some ideas about people who look like me that I wouldn’t find amusing.  But I kept hearing it wasn’t that simple. With that I scooped it up.

I found the book to be riveting.  I found parts of his family to be a little crazy.  I also found some of them to be endearing if not equally tragic.  Even with some ratchet behaviors that could rival any family’s, they had their principles, values and specific codes they lived by.  They are perfectly understandable codes.  I was able to understand more than I previously figured.  But that didn’t exactly allow me to understand why and what it was that promoted this mindset that they were being mistreated or disenfranchised in whole or in part because they were Caucasian.  I didn’t understand what was so attractive about a man like Donald Trump to them.  What was he telling them that endorsed these ideas of victimization and more importantly what did they believe Trump would actually offer them?

I tried to get these answers previously before the election.  But I couldn’t get a straight answer.  I got soundbites and talking points about the opposite candidate.  But I never got anything concrete that I could believe or take seriously.  I don’t even believe the people telling me these things believed them either.  But nevertheless, I write this today asking for understanding.  I ask this in all sincerity.  What is it that white males are going that’s different than what I’m dealing with?  How are your needs been neglected what are you afraid of someone else getting that you won’t because you happen to be a White male?

There is but one condition.  While it’s not mandatory to agree, the conversation must be 100% intellectually honest.  There is no reason to waste one another’s time.

You talk, I’ll listen, then we shall see if there is a an opportunity for more dialogue.  I am seriously and honestly wanting to get this.

But we’re not where we need to be. And all of us have more work to do.  If every economic issue is framed as a struggle between a hardworking white middle class and an undeserving minority, then workers of all shades are going to be left fighting for scraps while the wealthy withdraw further into their private enclaves. – President Barack Obama

 

 

On Officiating and Relations…

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Here are a few little tidbits about officials, officiating, communication and common sense:

  • As an official, when a team is getting the breaks beat off of them, it’s good judgement to let the coach whine a bit.  There are even times when he/she should be able to get away with a little more than usual.  It ain’t personal.  We should get that!
  • I expect that a coach will lobby for his players.  There is a way to keep an open dialogue and lobby for an official to see things the coaches way in certain situations.  On the other hand, when a coach is constantly debating every play, (Foul!  Traveling!  Moving Screen) that coach will be tuned out.   At some point the coach may have a legitimate point, but by the time that happens their credibility is spent.
  • Good officials respect dialogue, but we don’t respect intellectual dishonesty.  This too will get a coach tuned out.  Don’t argue against what you know to be obviously true.
  • Officials who are too prideful to admit a mistake suck!  Other officials hate working with them as much as coaches hate seeing them on the floor of their games.
  • Officials who don’t listen to other officials who try to help them suck!  And their performance will will never improve.
  • Like players and coaches, no matter how hard we try,  there are nights when we just don’t have it. We are going to suck, and we know when we sucked!

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  • Not that we are there for the compliments, but a coach that can compliment a good call or acknowledge a diligent official working hard at his craft is wise.
  • The less a coach complains, the more credibility he/she has when they do express displeasure.
  • Officials who love the craft of officiating and doing a great job on behalf of the players rock!
  • Coaches and administrators whose motivation are educating their players through team building sports and competition rock!
  • Sometimes conflict is good, healthy and necessary.
  • Some officials hold grudges.
  • Some coaches hold grudges.
  • Respect should be a given.  Only earned respect is maintained.
  • There are coaches and officials who are doing what they do for all the wrong reasons.
  • Officials, coaches and players are human.
  • There is way more to being an excellent official than some officials and most fans would ever understand.
  • I learn something new and see things I’ve never seen before often while officiating.
  • Officiating and coaching are both fun and honorable jobs to have.

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Of Symbolism, Ritualism, Cowardice and Hard Truths

Now I know the birthday of a nation
Is a time when a country celebrates
But as your hand touches your heart
Remember we all played a part 
In America to help that banner wave

  • Stevie Wonder, Black Man 1976

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What thoughts do you have as you view these symbols?  For some these symbols either represent or remind them of their faith in god and country.  For others these represent institutions of hatred and oppression.  For me, they represent all of these; faith, god, country, hatred and oppression.  They also represent neither.  The meanings of symbols and the meanings thereof are strictly up to the person interpreting them.  As people, we interpret symbols through the lenses of how we are raised, our learned experiences or how we have evolved.  By nature I am sentimental but I hardly hold on to what I deem are empty traditions.  I am an American.  But I didn’t have the choice of being an American.  I was born here.  I see from a distance some of the advantages I have from people in some other countries.  But my experiences and knowledge are limited, unlike, for example a first generation immigrant.  I can’t say America is the best country in the world.  Because ‘best’ is subjective depending on a person’s needs.  ‘Home’ is home for most people in the world.  Most people have conflicted feelings about their homes.

I served in the military, but I didn’t have a particular affection for the flag.  I grew close to a few of the people I served with.  I was a Christian, but I didn’t love the cross or the bible as a symbol.  I loved what I believed they stood for according to my faith.  I admit that I’ve had my superstitions.  Back in the day I would never put a glass or anything else on top of my bible.  There was something in me that felt it wasn’t right.  I’ve learned in time this was my hangup.  Experience has taught me a few things about symbols.

The flag, whether decorated with stars and stripes or crossbones and skull in an inanimate object.  The bible is a book.  It’s people who bring value and significance to things.  Not the other way around.  What the American flag and the Holy Bible represent to each person they encounter will be determined by the representatives who carry and present them.

I cannot speak for other nations, but Americans are really into symbols and rituals. However, far too many have little interest in an authentic manifestation of what they say the symbols stand for.  Take Colin Kaepernick and his decision to sit for the Star Spangled Banner. He expressed a grievance that has long been expressed by African-Americans as well as many other minorities in this country.  He desires that America as a whole live up to the ideas that she claim for all of it’s citizens. But Americans, are using the flag (the symbol) as a shield to cover over the subject matter Kaepernick described when asked why he sat.  Clearly, his critics don’t want to recognize Kaepernick’s grievances or even entertain a serious discussion about them.

I think ESPN’s Stan Verrett spoke for most Americans who happen to be woke, Black Americans in particular.

“I’ve always stood for the anthem because I believe in the promise of America, what the flag is supposed to symbolize even though America often falls short of what it’s supposed to symbolize. I mean, my dad served in the Army, dealt with discrimination in the Army, came back from his service in World War II and was not afforded the same rights as a U.S. citizen after his service, so don’t talk to me about sacrifice and the military. My mom was the valedictorian of her high school, couldn’t go to college in Louisiana and other mainstream universities because they were segregated. They didn’t want to hear about her grades. You can’t go because you’re black. “There’s still (discriminatory) problems in housing, hiring, the justice system. These are real problems. People aren’t making this up and they’re trying to find ways to speak out about it. You’re not always going to agree with the method. But let’s pay as much attention to the substance as we do to the symbol.”

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*Is burning this jersey (a recent ritual against scorned black athletes) any different that burning this cross?

Unfortunately, many of the loudest detractors of critical thought, nuance and self examination are fixated on the symbolism.  In the case of ‘patriotism’ they love the worship of the flag and the ritual of standing for the anthem.  They love the idea of what the veteran does to protect their rights to be self absorbed while enjoying a false sense of exceptionalism.  They aren’t willing to give two damns or one f#@! for veteran returning to the United States traumatized with PTSD.  They don’t invest in the welfare of military spouses and families left here when soldiers are deployed, wounded or killed in action.  They aren’t even the least bit put off about how the NFL charged the United States Military millions of dollars putting on tributes in stadiums during football games.

But they sure are mad as hell at a man who peacefully sits down for 90 seconds of the anthem.  They burn his jersey in effigy.  They tell him to leave the country.  They use his income as an excuse to condemn him to silence; as if money is an elixir to racism.  The ignore poor and middle class people who share the same griefs that Kaepernick is talking about.  So the question has to be asked: Is patriotism really the issue here? Or is there something else more sinister at play?

Images and rituals are useful when they serve as a reminder or an inspiration; when they celebrate ideas of hope, service, strength, and compassion, or a solemn recognition of memorial.  However, whats most important is that these images, symbols and rituals remain what they are, reminders. And that we the people with the power to make the meaning of our symbols a reality do so.  Without substance, we (and by ‘we’ I mean they or you if it applies) are liars, rattlesnakes pretending to be eagles!  This fact is easily verifiable when one acts as if not standing for the anthem is treason while ignoring the reasons a man chooses not to stand.

Finally I will echo the words of San Francisco Chronicle Columnist, Ann Killion,  …the truth is, standing for the national anthem before a sporting event is an equally empty gesture for many people. Though many are reverent during the anthem and think of their freedom and those who have died for our rights, just as many are buying a beer, daydreaming or looking at their phones. Raising their butts off the seat doesn’t make them better Americans than Kaepernick.

She continued,  …To those who say he “should” be grateful, and that he has a good life, take a look at the racist comments posted on his Instagram account. They’ve been there for years, long before this controversy. He has plenty of reason to be concerned about what’s happening in our country.

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I say, the fact that many are still holding on to their patriotic bumper sticker phrases, despite the many veterans who have come to Kaepernick’s defense, (#VeteransForKaepernick) your stance merely reveals your nationalistic narcissism!  You can’t hide in plain sight.  We see you naked and inept.  When former Attorney General Eric Holder said, “Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial, we have always been and we — I believe continue to be in too many ways essentially a nation of cowards, he was talking about you, oh “patriotic” one.

The Hate That Hate Produced (Part Duex)

Dog Whistle Politics:  It means putting out a message that, like a high-pitched dog whistle, is only fully audible to those at whom it is directly aimed.  The intention is to make potential supporters sit up and take notice while avoiding offending those to whom the message will not appeal.” – The Economist 

History sure has a way of repeating itself… over and over again.  Especially in an area where honest dialogue never existed.  When it comes to race, America remains for the most part in a state of cowardly denial, is willingly senile, operating within a glass bubble, exposed, but unaware.  As the Trump train powers through American politics and discourse, I am most amused by the rock throwing/hand hiding of not only the other GOP candidates, but many of their supporters who ‘act as if ‘they are put off with The Donald and his rhetoric.  I’ve spent the last eight years attempting to dialogue with them as the Obama presidency continued to reveal the obvious underbelly of white racial rage.  But all I heard was that I was making something out of nothing.  That I was race baiting.  I understand that in many cases privilege is a helluva blinder.  Anytime privilege of any kind is threatened, it feels like discrimination to the preferred beneficiary.  This is true with not only race, but gender, sexuality, class and so forth.  The Obama presidential campaign in 2007 brought to bear the threatened privilege of White America’s fear of Black progress in a post slavery post Jim Crow nation.  As the rhetoric spewed in the months leading up to November the scene played out in both a Twainian and Shakespearean fashion.

You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968, you can’t say “nigger” — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced bussing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me — because obviously sitting around saying, “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.” — Lee Atwater, Republican Party Strategist  1981

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This was how it was during the Reagan era.  From the day he announced his campaign on Sunday August 3, 1980  in Philadelphia, MS of all places, he looked to perfect the art of Dog Whistle Code Speech.  In case you didn’t know, Philadelphia, MS in Neshoba County, was the same town where three young civil rights workers; a 21-year-old black Mississippian, James Chaney, and two white New Yorkers, Andrew Goodman, 20, and Michael Schwerner, 24 were murdered on June 21, 1964. The three young men were chased in their car, abducted, shot at close range, then buried in an earthen dam by the local Ku Klux Klan.  The very location indicated a message that Reagan was sending to his white conservative audience.  He chose a significant place where the empirical history of White Supremacy reigned.  In his speech he wasted no time in mentioning ‘welfare reform.  He continued to wax eager the virtues of ‘states rights.’  

I believe in state’s rights; I believe in people doing as much as they can for themselves at the community level and at the private level. And I believe that we’ve distorted the balance of our government today by giving powers that were never intended in the constitution to that federal establishment. And if I do get the job I’m looking for, I’m going to devote myself to trying to reorder those priorities and to restore to the states and local communities those functions which properly belong there. – Ronald Reagan 1980

States Rights/Decoded = A reference dating back to the conflict of the Civil War between the Union and the Confederate.  The Confederate believed it was the rights of states to decide whether they wanted to own slaves and endorse slavery as an institution.  Southerners who preferred slavery, and subsequently Jim Crow and segregation laws believe the federal government overstepped it’s bounds in undermining what they feel were their ‘states rights.’

Welfare Reform/DecodedA term directed towards poor or middle class whites intended to focus them on poor minorities.  Its purpose is to describe said minorities as ‘takers,’ who are lazy, unmotivated and unproductive while draining the economy, thus making it harder on white people, who are in turn hard workers.  It says nothing of the statistics regarding the percentages of actual welfare recipients.  It only assumes minorities, specifically black folk are the takers.  It’s also limited to individuals, not taking into account any corporations or corporate executives who may benefit from government ‘subsidies.’ The difference in the words ‘subsidies’ vs ‘welfare’ directly determines the response of the hearer. 

Over the last 35 years or so, the dog-whistle style worked pretty well.  Nixon, Reagan, Bushes 1 & 2, and even Clinton benefited from using coded language to project a narrative.  But something happened when Barack Obama became a serious candidate for president.  Coded language slowly began to give way to a more bold and ballistic approach as White anger and fear that the person who would become the face and symbol of leadership in these United States of America could be a black male.

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One of the first series of racially motivated attacks was the so called ‘birther movement’s’ questioning of Obama’s status as a United States citizen.  Many Whites including now GOP front runner Donald Trump riled that Obama was born in Kenya, East Africa as opposed to Hawaii.  Trump went on to say that he had investigators in Hawaii that would prove conclusively that Obama wasn’t born in Hawaii.  Hillary Clinton’s supporters jumped in as well questioning the origin of Obama’s citizenship.  In spite of there never being such evidence presented by Trump, so many White Americans latched on to the conspiracy theory, that it became a thing; so much of a thing that eventually the White House released a copy of the ‘long form’ certificate.  This would not satisfy those who were set on believing that since the day of his birth Barack Obama was raised from birth to infiltrate the White House, take White people’s guns and make America a Muslim state, overturn the constitution and replace it with Sharia Law.  That brings us to our next conspiracy theory; which is that Obama is not a Christian.

In spite of 2016 being the last year of the second term of the Obama presidency, 43% of Whites still believe that Obama is a Muslim. This despite all of the evidence that supports the opposite.  The Obama’s were members of Trinity United Church of Christ for years.  They were married there, and both of their children were baptized at Trinity as well.  Despite that fact that there is no way in hell in 2016 that Obama could possibly hide a Muslim connection, (past or present) this suspension of reality for these White naysayers are simply ways to ostracize Obama to a group that they despise and are afraid of.  They cannot embrace Obama’s Christian faith without embracing him as their spiritual brother.  To continue the lie that he is something other than a Christian, gives them a self deceiving legitimacy in not taking him seriously, rather dismissing every word from his mouth, his authority and even his presence.  No other president or presidential candidate has ever had his/her faith questioned.  Is Christianity even a question now among any of the candidates?

During the McCain/Palin campaign the racial overtones became more and more emboldened.  Palin spoke divisively accusing Obama not being an American, like the White crowds in her audience. She linked Obama with terrorists.  The crowd in turn shouted epitaphs such as, ‘terrorist, off with his head, and kill him!”   It got so ugly and threatening that even McCain himself tried to temper the racial rhetoric by defending Obama as a ‘decent person, a decent family man and a citizen,’ the crowd booed him.  McCain tried to reason with the crowd and get the focus on Obama’s views as opposed to his race.  “We want to fight, and I will fight,” McCain said. “But I will be respectful. I admire Sen. Obama and his accomplishments, and I will respect him. I don’t mean that has to reduce your ferocity, I just mean to say you have to be respectful.”  McCain was booed again.  What, respect a black man who has the audacity to think he can be OUR president?

Once it became apparent that Obama did indeed win the election and was going to be sworn in.  The rage was real and lay bare expressed through cable news channels.  Critics like Rudy Giuliani became one of the go to guys for disparaging anything Obama.  No matter what the issue was or what The President said or did.  Echoing the voices of White rage the GOP took note to follow the script of de-legitimizing Obama.  The racial rhetoric was starting to become less coded.  The utter disdain utterly vicereal.  Here is a round robin list of just a few examples.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell“The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”  2008

South Carolina Representative Joe Wilson“YOU LIE!”  * Shouted during the middle of Obama’s first State of the Union Address.  2009

Newt Gingrich“President Barack Obama deserves to be called, ‘the most successful food stamp president in American history,’ because “47 million Americans are on food stamps.”  2012 *The food stamp reference feeds into the notion that Reagan fed into during his election that black folk were the major recipients of government assistance were poor black people.  This made white people resentful of their own perceived lack of success.  The poor people are takers.  The takers are black.  This despite that fact that when Gingrich made this statement in 2010, only 8 percent received cash welfare, while 30 percent had earnings.  Nearly half of food-stamp beneficiaries are children under 18, and about 8 percent are elderly. About 34 percent of beneficiaries are white, 22 percent are black, 17 percent Hispanic, 7 percent Asian or Native American, and 20 percent “race unknown.”  Gingrich knew that his audience would interpret the myth of who welfare recipients are.  The face of welfare is a black face.

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After initially saying she would not meet President Obama at the airport, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer met The President with a never seen before confrontational finger to the face!

47 Republican senators committed treason against the United States by sending a letter to Iran intending to hinder Obama’s negotiations with Iran regarding a nuclear arms agreement.   2015

None of these extraordinary examples were credited to Obama’s color according to his White detractors.  Even the mantra of, ‘take our country back’ was said to be benignly focused on politics. Instead, any mention of race at all was turned on Obama’s head as being the racist.  Ben Stein called Obama, “The most racist president in American history.”  This despite the fact that previous presidents owned slaves, supported Jim Crow laws and had ties to the KKK.  Anytime Obama mentioned racial injustices such as the killing of unarmed Trayvon Martin, and the subsequent acquittal of George Zimmerman, he was accused of stirring up racial animus.  If he showed empathy to anything black, he was accused of favoring Blacks.  The irony is, that when Obama acknowledged the dog-whistle style of criticism himself, saying, they (Republicans) are trying to scare you because I don’t look like the other presidents on the dollar bill,” he was accused of playing the race card.  In other words, it was perfectly acceptable for whites to infer to Obama as the Food Stamp president.  They could say, “let’s take America back,” as if he stole it and hid the nation in a crack house somewhere.  They could freely claim all day long that race had absolutely nothing to do with their choice of words.  And yet for him to mention race at all in a fashion that didn’t denigrate black people made him a racist himself, and therefore a threat to White people.

Now we have come full circle.  The conundrum that the GOP face today is that those racial undertones and sub-tweets of rhetoric have come home to roost.  What Donald Trump says openly is what the GOP has established itself on in code that Atwater so eloquently spoke of.  Though Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and others have tried to separate themselves from the niggerization of Trump’s politics.  But they can’t escape the liable they are responsible for.  Rafael Cruz, Ted Cruz’s father is responsible for some of the most racially charged diatribes on record.  As Cruz ran for the Senate in 2012, he said, “We need to send Barack Obama back to Chicago. Back to Kenya.”  Ask Ted Cruz, or any other republican if his father’s statements have anything to do with race. Trump would not only acknowledge the obvious, he’s encouraging the white rage by asking his crowds to beat up black people at his rallys.  Law enforcement authorities are arresting the assaulted instead of the ones committing these assaults on national television.  Its to the point now, that as D.L. Hughley said, “If Trump says the N-Word, he going to be president tomorrow.”  Michael Eric Dyson noted that if LBJ’s motto was, ‘The Buck Stops Here,’ For the mainstream GOP the mantra has been for Obama, ‘The Buck Must Be Stopped.’

The GOP would like to make you believe this poisonous racial environment and Trump’s political success isn’t on them.  But it absolutely is.

Memo to those:

When you called Obama weak, while he is out here killing Bin Laden, as well as other key figures in Al Qaeda and ISIS.  You are ungratefully biting the hand that has kept you safe.

When you say that other nations don’t respect us.  What you are really saying is that YOU don’t respect the president.

When you say he is a con man, you are saying he doesn’t act like your stereotypical image of what a nigger is.  (And that he is smarter than you! For his accomplishments have surpassed yours by leaps and bounds)   Those who haven’t had ONE good word to say about this president, in 7 years is fooling no one but themselves.

The birth of Trump is merely the product from 7 years of racially ejaculatory motivated hate.  Quoting Michael Jackson is not appropriate.  The the kid is definitely your son!

 

It Takes Two To Make A Thing Go Right, or Selective Outrage is Impotent

Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe. – Frederick Douglass

Just a few thoughts regarding the latest in protest and violence in America post what strongly appears to be unchecked police brutality.

I’ve had conversations with friends, African-American friends in particular who voice either in word, social media and otherwise their frustrations and disdain for looters and folk who are burning buildings in Baltimore.  They’ve praised the mother who went Ronda Rousey on her son for participating in the riots.  They say, “I hate what I’m seeing on TV!  This is NOT the answer!”

What occurred to me was the history of the world, the history of this country.  Change from those in power to benefit those with less has rarely happened without violence and physical struggle.  I think of the Arab Springs in Syria, Egypt and Morocco to name a few over the last several years.  People had decided that they had enough of their oppressive and corrupt governments.  I think of the history of the civil rights movement during segregation and Jim Crow.  Hell, I think of the Boston Tea Party!  That struggle is glorified in history books.  My response to my friends has simply been to ask them, “Well what IS the answer?  What should they do?  Call the police?  (The same police who have one of THE worst documented reports of police brutality?) Write the police commissioner? What should they do to make the difference? None could give me any answers.  I sure as hell don’t have any either.

I saw President Obama this morning demonizing the looters.  But he can ‘miss me’ with that until he also demonizes the police who crushed a man’s spine and voice box while in their custody for simply running away from them.  Freddie Gray wasn’t wanted for any crime.  The knife he had in his pocket was of legal.  His downfall seems to be that he didn’t possess NFL first round wide receiver speed to escape his killers.  The President isn’t the only using all of his vitriol against those in rebellion.  Mass media and the direction or misdirection of narrative shaping is solely focused on the fallout from Gray’s death instead of the original sin of Gray’s death.  The truth of the matter is, I am not willing to listen to anyone who is not nuanced enough to have a real discussion regarding the cause and effect of what’s going on in Baltimore, what happened in New York, Ferguson and Oakland to facilitate community unrest.  I mean, how many times does this have to happen before there is a recognition of human nature; that if you keep putting a boot on people’s necks they are going to rise up?   It’s easy to tell people, “Keep on taking this ass whooping and burying your friends and kin to police brutality.  Organize and wait for the next election.  Have a church services, pray and forgive corrupt cops and the institutions that protect them.”  Historically that is not going to be a unified or sustained response.  Again, just check the history of anywhere in the world!  It ain’t gonna happen!

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Furthermore, I am past the point of apologizing for the looters. Looting is something I have never done nor would I.  I was in Ferguson and it never crossed my mind.  It’s not my thing.  But why should I have to own the onus of those that do when my counterparts don’t own the burden of unarmed black boys and men being murdered by police?  Am I the only one (as an activist) that needs to make concessions here and take ownership?  If they want to isolate and tell me that all the facts aren’t in, then I will say the same thing.  Dammit we don’t know who burned down the buildings.  You got a name?  Have all the facts been gathered yet?  Has there been an investigation of who exactly started the fires?  What accelerant was used? At what point in each building was the fatal match thrown? …and by WHOM exactly?  Sound ridiculous?  I don’t know… Cause sure as hell we had Eric Garner’s death from start to finish on VIDEO and we saw how THAT turned out!  Mr. Scarface said it best, “Black men are being hunted!”

I have always been an ambassador of sorts.  I bridge gaps and intermediate many potentially explosive situations.  I’ve done it all my life.  It’s natural for me.  I love peace.  Thus I am a fan of Dr. King’s non-violent work.  Yet I have always understood the need for an armed movement like The Black Panthers too.  I don’t own a gun.  I don’t desire to own one.  But I do recognize that with non-violence it’s easy for the one oppressing you to get a little too comfortable believing no retribution is possible.  Having the thought that in the back of one’s mind that he can catch some hurt if he stepped to the wrong person or set of people is just smart negotiating.  In other words, Rosa Parks is going to sit on that bus, but Nat Turner may take a shovel to your dome!

Is that not how our own government deal with other countries?  It goes like this: “If you don’t act right, we may use economic sanctions. Or we may bomb the shit outta you!”

Finally let me bring this point home.  If something goes down at my house where I need help, I’m calling the police.  I have several friends who are police officers.  One is a high ranking member.  If I see one of those guys driving behind me, it wouldn’t phase me a bit.  As a matter of fact, I may try to flag them down and start a conversation.  Equally true, is that because of my own experiences with bad police, I am scared as hell when one gets behind me who I don’t know.  *Especially if he is white*  I’m on the road almost every day going to someone’s basketball gym, football field or baseball diamond.  Sometimes I am some very remote areas where there are rarely is any folk who look like me.  And the reality is this; On any given day I could be the next Freddie Gray, Mike Brown, Eric Garner or Oscar Grant.  That ain’t hyperbole.  That’s real!  Look, I was on a field last week working a baseball game.  I saw two cops approach and started watching the game. I hadn’t done anything wrong, yet I was scared.  I wondered if they were there for me.  At the time there was a baseball game and a track meet going on right next to the diamond.  I didn’t see any faces of color anywhere.  My tensions didn’t subside till the police vacated the property.  And it’s not as if I am afraid of any man in isolation. But I expect danger and conflict from police who I know mostly operate with impunity.  But this is my life.  And the fact of the matter is, if it IS me, if I am the next to be murdered by police many detractors will believe that I somehow provoked it or deserved it.  Yes some of my white friends will say, “Well, he is a fiery guy!  You ever see his Facebook page?  He must have went off or took a swing at them…went for his gun.”  And this is how they will live with the lie that they tell themselves in NOT getting involved or using their own voices to promote an end to this bullshit!   If I’m lucky, others will rally for me as I have rallied for them.  I shouldn’t have to live with this conflict of having a cognitive dissidence of respecting police and their duties and yet fearing the one in the badge that is supposed to represent service and protection from REAL criminals.

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So no I don’t pretend to know what black folk should do in reaction every time this happens to us.  But I do know that when white folk decide that enough is enough, things will change , and change in a hurry.  Folk like Baltimore Oriole’s COO John Angelos who said;

Brett, speaking only for myself, I agree with your point that the principle of peaceful, non-violent protest and the observance of the rule of law is of utmost importance in any society. MLK, Gandhi, Mandela and all great opposition leaders throughout history have always preached this precept. Further, it is critical that in any democracy, investigation must be completed and due process must be honored before any government or police members are judged responsible.

That said, my greater source of personal concern, outrage and sympathy beyond this particular case is focused neither upon one night’s property damage nor upon the acts, but is focused rather upon the past four-decade period during which an American political elite have shipped middle class and working class jobs away from Baltimore and cities and towns around the U.S. to third-world dictatorships like China and others, plunged tens of millions of good, hard-working Americans into economic devastation, and then followed that action around the nation by diminishing every American’s civil rights protections in order to control an unfairly impoverished population living under an ever-declining standard of living and suffering at the butt end of an ever-more militarized and aggressive surveillance state.

The innocent working families of all backgrounds whose lives and dreams have been cut short by excessive violence, surveillance, and other abuses of the Bill of Rights by government pay the true price, and ultimate price, and one that far exceeds the importances of any kids’ game played tonight, or ever, at Camden Yards. We need to keep in mind people are suffering and dying around the U.S., and while we are thankful no one was injured at Camden Yards, there is a far bigger picture for poor Americans in Baltimore and everywhere who don’t have jobs and are losing economic civil and legal rights, and this makes inconvenience at a ballgame irrelevant in light of the needless suffering government is inflicting upon ordinary Americans.

Jeering at protesters is low hanging fruit.  Going after bad police, digging into the policies of oppression, mass incarceration and the roots of class warfare and suffering is HONEST!  OWN THAT and then we can talk.  Otherwise… See you after the next police led murder and cover up in a city near you.

 

 

 

 

Submit, Listen, Learn & Advance

For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives. – Hebrews 12:6

We live in society where people are often defensive when it comes to receiving correction. A common phrase folk tend to use when approached with feedback designed to reveal a personal or professional flaw is that the person giving the feedback is ‘hating.’ Their first reaction is to defend, place blame, deflect responsibility, or simply rise up against what may be helpful advice.  There is a common saying, “Only God can judge me.”  Often that’s psycho–babble for, “Don’t say nothing about my ignorant or destructive ways.”

Most of us don’t like being corrected. It’s in our nature.  That’s not always a negative depending on the context.

I remember working in a payroll position.  And for eleven years I made significant contributions day in and day out. My boss, a great man, occasionally questioned a project I worked on or corrected me in my processes. I would listen and adjust my practices when instructed, but there would often be an intense conversation along the way. He said he liked that I was that way because he knew that I really cared about doing a great job. It wasn’t like I didn’t want to be better, but I took pride in excellence.  The thought of not being perfect peeved me in the worst way. My motivation had merit. But the pride that drove me was at times my worst enemy.  I’ll get back to that.

Seldom does correction ‘feel’ good. But it’s a valuable tool that’s totally essential for growth. There are always opportunities to be critiqued because none of us are perfect.  Of course not all criticisms are valid. However, the way in which we handle critique say a lot about whether we are fit for promotion.

I’ve had the opportunity to be mentored by a veteran official of over 35 years. He has worked multiple high school state title games in three sports. Obviously an older gentleman, his words are not always politically correct. His had a tough and disciplined upbringing by two stern parents in the segregated South. And his straight forward approach seldom has nuance.

I originally knew this man growing up as a teacher and sports official when I attended high school.  He officiated many of my own games.  I doubt that he remembered me.  The first time he saw me on the ball field as a young umpire, he eyed me from head to toe pointing out what was wrong with my uniform, and how I held my ball/strike/out indicator in the wrong hand.  He also tore into me for wearing a shiny watch (not good as it reflects in the sun) and on and on.  Inside I felt like, “Well damn dude, nice to see you again too.”

For some reason, I had the presence of mind not to let him see me sweat. Instead, I hung around and allowed him to make fun of me in front of the other guys. I shook my head in the affirmative, smiled and thanked him for helping me out. I bought a non reflective watch, and made every other adjustment per his instructions.

He kept in touch and hired me for a few high school games. Sometimes I got to work directly with him as his on the field partner. This was scary because I didn’t know how I would stack up or if I would meet his expectations. Needless to say, my trepidation was clairvoyant. At the end of each half inning he summoned me and asked me various question about what I was doing and why. I remember being on the bases and when a runner was tagged out I belted, “HE’S OUT AT THIRD!” I was told by the cagy veteran, “Us umpires are dumb! We only speak in one word terms. We say ‘out’, ‘safe,’ ‘ball,’ ‘strike.’ We don’t announce the game. You’re not Harry Carey!”

He gave it to me every time he had a chance. But I took it in and learned. I focused on not making the same mistakes over and over again. These lessons continued as we worked together more in the later months.  I began to improve.  As I got better he started giving me respect.  Instead of rhetoric exclusively geared towards instructions he started to speak casually, even making jokes.  Sometimes he’d even ask me about my personal life to get to know me better.

Last year this mentor of mine was inducted into the Illinois High School Activities Hall of Fame. My wife and I drove to the Bloomington-Normal, Illinois to share in his honor with many of his family, friends, and fellow officials.

Now when we work together he still quizzes me sometimes.  He still gives instructions as he is always the educator. I am still a bit nervous, more so out of respect. I always learn something new when work together.  But I also noticed that he is proud of me. When we used to meet in the parking lot for pre-game he would tell me whether I was working the plate or the field. Now he asks me what my preferences are. One time he even said, “It’s my turn to work the plate Chris. I gotcha.” Now he looks at me like a partner not as a scrub.

You see the ‘drill sergeant’ has long retired from the sport. He’s received all of the accolades one can get from his profession as a teacher and official. But his motivation for me was to see me advance and be one of the people to carry the torch of my generation. He merely hangs around now to assign guys like me games and expose us to people and places because this business is very political. There was a time when Black American officials didn’t get much work if any from Caucasian assignors. It’s still that way in a lot of places. So his entire aim was never to demean or embarrass me. (Though at times I’m telling you he did.) He simply wants me to be the best at my craft.  I have to be on top of my game to succeed and reach my potential.  He told me recently, “I want you to be a state finals official.”

I love him for that.

Now, if I would have been a knuckle head and rebelled, ignored his advice, thought to myself the man is old, out of touch or hating, where would that leave me?

I’ve always been a mentor myself so I get it.  When I see a person who consistently refuse the counsel I offer, I’ll keep my knowledge to myself. When people cease talking to us about our flaws and we are allowed to flail about aimlessly thinking that we are performing well when in reality we are not, that is actually a judgment upon our lives. It’s saying in effect, “There is no hope for you.  I will not waste my time, or my breath trying to dress a pig with pearls.”

As I said before every criticism is not necessarily valid. But listening never hurt anyone. The best thing to do, even if you initially disagree is to consider and reflect on what has been said first.  If you find it to be true, take heed and make change. If it’s not, keep it moving.

Unfortunately, pride keeps us from even contemplating and thus prevents us from promotion to our next level. But that great evangelist and teacher Marcellus Wallace said it best, “Fuck pride! Pride only hurts, it never helps. Fight through that shit.”

MW