Archive for the ‘education’ Category

Rump Roast

February 24, 2017

He wants so hard to be Reagan,
but actually he’s more like Nixon
He’s causing more problems
than what he’s supposed to be fixin’

Truth-telling is great, cutting through the crap
but I hear more lies than truth coming out of that trap

He goes on the attack when approached with real facts
Crying to deflect from his lying is a tired act

I have no doubt he wants to fix bad situations,
but wrong-headed moves make us the butt of all nations

Ego + paranoia run unchecked =  a volatile cocktail
He has to subdue those natural impulses or he will surely fail

Is anyone telling him about himself?
Does anyone have his ear?
Or does having a pompous attitude
make it far too heard to hear?

He is supposed to work with industry, communities,
and educators to make improvements
Not give the reins to big business and vengeful politicians,
and misguided hope to hate movements

We need high-quality, vocational education
and more funds to make our public schools great
not destruction of a great, democratic institution
with vouchers that further segregate

He needs to upgrade our failing infrastructure
without causing neighborhoods to rot
Railroads and highways killed vital communities
separating the haves from the have nots

How about to lower the crime rates and
proliferation of illegal guns and drugs
he investigates how the crap gets here–
the corruption and bribery by the real thugs?

If I could have his ear for a minute I would say
the following because, no, it hasn’t gone away:

Be the big man you say you are, and not the wussy,
nasty little boy that you’re acting like
Own up to your comments, apologize for the p*ssy
reference and misogynist diatribe

No, wait, he should go much further: He should acknowledge that
he’s got a sexist attitude he’s working hard to correct

He’s caving into his paranoia
and his myriad obsessions
He needs to forget his war with the media
hasn’t he learned any lessons?

He should put his nose to the grindstone
and open up his ears
He said the people are in charge,
but it’s really all his fears

Because of his divisiveness from the start
he doesn’t get cut a break
He gets relentlessly parodied as art
whenever he makes a mistake

He’s the ringmaster of his own circus–
or is he the clown?
I wish he’d be professional instead of
jerking us around

While the sideshow continues
I offer you a toast
What kind of whine goes well
with an undercooked rump roast?

When Can We Address Racism As Adults?

August 20, 2013

It seemed like for a while there were news stories every week about somebody somewhat famous saying something racist or racially insensitive. For Paula Deen, the repercussions were swift and harsh. She lost endorsements, business partnerships, and fans (all of which affected her financially). Two women on Big Brother (whose comments were shown on Big Brother after Dark and eventually later in clips on the regular CBS version of the show) were, unbeknownst to them, fired by their employers for their comments. I don’t know if they’ve been voted out since then since I don’t watch the show. I won’t bother to look it up.

Then there was the incident in which Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper was caught on video, courtesy of a cell phone, ranting angrily about jumping over a fence and “fight[ing] every nigger out there, bro.” Cooper was drunk and pouting because a Black security guard would not allow him to go backstage at the Kenny Chesney concert he was attending. I guess the guard didn’t recognize Cooper:

  1. with his hair pulled into a ponytail instead of flowing freely from under a helmet
  2. his muscles prominent in a cut-off shirt rather than somehow looking smaller (maybe because on the field guys around him look wider or more muscular) in a game-time jersey and pads
  3. acting the fool.

The incident, of course, took place weeks before being revealed to the public (there were allegations that the person shooting the footage was trying to blackmail Cooper), but once it was out there it garnered a lot of media attention (I’m sure by a majority of people who had never heard of Riley Cooper).

Cooper was quick to make a statement to the public, apologizing for his actions and revealing embarrassment. He said his action, “isn’t the type of person I am,” and said, “This is not the type of person I want to be portrayed as.” The Eagles fined him and mandated that he receive sensitivity training. The NFL did not punish him because the team had. Cooper was back at practice with the Eagles less than a week after the incident was made public. He’s played in each preseason game thus far and is expected to start at wide receiver during the season.

Although some people feel the punishment was not enough (see, for instance, this article/blog via the Chicago Tribune), I’m glad this did not result in another instance of a business taking the ax to someone for saying something racist. We do enough of that. The business solution is typically (at least when an incident has been made public and received a lot of media attention) to express outrage, cut out a perceived cancer, wash their hands, and move on. Businesses can do this. They exist to make money. If they fear a relationship with someone will cost them one red cent, they will sever their ties with the individual.

While people have freedom of speech in this country, they are not free to speak their mind without fear of retribution from the private sector. You can say what you want without being put in jail (of course there are problems when you’ve said something slanderous, but that must be proven and if you’re guilty, you’ll suffer financially), but I can fire you, end our partnership, stop doing business with you, suspend you from school, write a blog telling people how bad of a person I think you are, et cetera, if I am in the position to do so. Okay, enough about that.

Unless you’re extremely important to a business, you’re considered expendable. I bet there are people at the ready during a PR crises that have spreadsheets calculating just how much severing ties with people being shamed in the media for some alleged wrong or another will cost versus the cost of keeping them around. It should be said that if the Eagles did something like this, they determined that the costs outweighed the benefits of waiving/cutting Cooper (in football speak that’s basically waving someone bye bye and leaving it up to another team to sign or ignore the player). You see, not long before Cooper’s rant was made public, the Eagles top receiver from a year ago had been lost for the season due to injury. They would lose another one, to the same injury, around the time of Cooper’s return to the team. So the Eagles really needed Cooper around. Now, that’s not to say they wouldn’t have made the same move even if Jeremy Maclin were healthy. Cooper’s a veteran on the team. Then, again, there are no allegiances from the coaching staff as most—including the head coach—are new to the team. However, Cooper has spent time learning the playbook and bringing in a new guy who hadn’t probably didn’t seem appealing. The cost of getting a new guy up to speed on the playbook minus the…

Still I’m going to give the team, if not the benefit of the doubt, a nod to handling the situation appropriately, provided the agency or individual the team sent Cooper to is extremely reputable, skilled, and serious about sensitivity training. That’s because the most important thing is providing resources for Cooper to educate him and help him sort through his issues. And he does have issues dealing with race. The word choice he used, set free by that tonic-of-truth alcohol, did not come from nowhere. While Cooper might say and actually believe that the angry man captured on video does not represent who he really is, the fact is that the angry man captured on video does represent part of who he really is.

Maybe the guy just hates Black people. Or, more likely, Cooper has some racist thoughts. That doesn’t mean he’s a bad person. The U.S. has a racist history and institutions continue to perpetrate racism. Is it then difficult to believe and accept that otherwise kind, hardworking, decent people have racist thoughts? For many people it seems that’s just too much truth to swallow, but it shouldn’t be. We all have things to work on, ways to improve, thoughts we didn’t wish we had. We are human.

Perhaps Cooper has built up resentment from being passed over over the years by coaches and scouts who did not see his skills because he’s a White guy playing a position numerically dominated (at least in the upper echelons of college football and the NFL) by Black guys. It happens more than people admit because they don’t even see their bias. It occurred for years to Black men who wanted to be quarterbacks or were quarterbacks until they got to college or the pros. At some point it became true for White guys who play corner, running back (now distinguished by many from fullback aka blocking back—when exactly did that happen? Fullbacks used to carry the football frequently.)  It happens daily as young people decide to pursue or give up particular sports, other activities, or academic pursuits because stereotypes in society say they are not supposed to be good at certain things and can only be good at others.

Conversely, maybe Cooper’s resentful because scouts and coaches have bent over backwards for him as a White guy playing wide receiver and he doesn’t believe he’s deserved the praise or favors. It’s possible. It happens in the world outside of football and likely inside it too, and in other sports. Either misguided employers are eager to elevate someone “different” to a position because they want to appear progressive or they do it because they really want to get behind that person. The employer who hires or promotes somebody not ready for the position because he/she thinks it’s the “right thing” to do. It doesn’t happen nearly as often as hiring and promoting due to nepotism, but I digress. Consider, also, the “Great White Hope” boxers in the past who were pushed and promoted because their backers really, really wanted them to be champions amidst a near-exclusive number of non-White champs. (I bet that still holds true, particularly for heavyweights, in a slightly tweaked way. You see, the Klitschko brothers are not American, so there are probably some diehard boxing fans—a dying breed as it were—who secretly want a real-life Rocky Balboa (White and American born and bred) to become heavyweight champ.)

Maybe Cooper’s gotten ribbing or outright bullying by people (fans, teammates) for being the White guy wide receiver. Maybe it’s made him mad and he’s never addressed it. Any of the above could be true, none could be true. But whatever the reason, Cooper’s got anger towards Black people, anger with which he hadn’t before (or still hasn’t depending upon the quality of his counseling) dealt.

We should be talking about these things out in the open. Let’s talk about resentment. Maybe we can arrive at a truth. Maybe if we allowed people to talk about their frustrations, their biases, their misperceptions, we can educate everyone about the realities of racism. It’s not gone, folks. We can’t keep:

  1. sweeping it under the rug;
  2. or blaming it on “bad people” that are nothing like ourselves;
  3. or blaming it on “stupid people” that make us supposedly ashamed of our race;
  4. or sprinting to make excuses by blaming alcohol, the “liberal” media, and victims of racism for daring to lift up the carpet.

Why can’t we be adults about this? We say, “the N word” rather than the actual word as if that somehow takes away the history of oppression, outright hatred, discrimination, and lynching of Black people referred to as niggers by the people committing the acts outright and those standing by watching it happen and benefiting from the privilege of having non-Brown skin. It doesn’t.

We claim we’ve taken the sting from the word by replacing –er with –a and turning a word that’s been used as an equivalent to stupid, inferior, shiftless, lazy, degenerate, criminal, immoral, and less-than-human, into a word that means brother, friend, loved one. Right.

Ask a regular guy in Brooklyn if he hears a difference from the way he says nigger and the way he says nigga. He won’t unless he’s taken special diction classes to modify his regular accent. Where do you think the word nigga came from anyway? Do you really think someone actually took the time to decide he was going to re-claim the word nigger to make it something uplifting and the best way to do that was to invent a new version spelled with an a? Maybe a group of people got together and said, “We gotta do something about nigger. We hear it too much. We got to turn it into a positive. Let’s spell it n-i-g-g-a and make it a term of endearment.” Some rappers would have you believe that. Do you know that niggah was used, too, in writing—mainly to mimic the accent of people whose speech patterns regularly substitute the –er sound for the –ah sound? Eventually the h was dropped from the way the word is typically spelled now, but it doesn’t change the facts: nigga was nigger because of speech patterns; n-i-g-g-a was “invented” when rappers and hip hop musicians wrote out their lyrics. Sure they meant nigger—sometimes in an affectionate way, sometimes in just a familiar way to refer to people in their communities whether friends or just other Black people, and sometimes in the same old way (particularly to refer to enemies or people they looked down upon). When the same people who claim nigga is a term of affection use it to say, “Those niggas are messed up. They don’t deserve jack,” you think they’re using it lovingly?

Maybe if we actually got into regular, civil dialogue when these incidents occur (whether or not they make their way into 24-7 news coverage)–and they occur daily—we’d eventually weed out the most dangerous form of racism, institutional racism. The most perverse, sustaining form of racism that:

  1. causes banks to refuse loans in areas in which the majority of people are not White;
  2. benefits White folks who have property handed down over generations (dating back to Jim Crow and in many cases far beyond, when most non-Whites who were finally legally allowed to have property saw their property taken from them, were effectively excluded from ownership, or could not afford to own it in the first place) that they can use to mortgage and pay for the education of their children and grandchildren and take out loans for small businesses;
  3. gives businesses an excuse to not have a presence in economically deprived areas, and those that are in the areas reason to charge high prices for their services because they know the people living there have limited options (or to compensate for the high property tax rates they have to pay);
  4. allows property tax rates in the poorest areas be much higher than those in affluent areas, while the prices of homes in these lower-income areas are undervalued in the real estate market;
  5. allows the so-called War on Drugs to really be a) an excuse to incarcerate non-White perpetrators at far higher rates for longer sentences than White perpetrators of the same crimes, and b) an excuse to blame non-Whites for the violence in their communities rather than an actual reduction in the amount of drugs and guns in these areas;
  6. calls Asians “model minorities” a) without the historical context of the 1965 immigration act, which finally removed racial barriers to immigration (but also added restrictive quotas to immigration from Latin America where they didn’t originally exist) and focused more on skills, attracting skilled workers (from already affluent backgrounds and/or with the educational or professional skills to earn high wages in the U.S.) from Asia into the country in increasingly larger numbers; and b) by ignoring the population of Asian refugees (from places such as Vietnam and Laos), who came to the U.S. to flee violence and are often mired in poverty;
  7. popularizes images of American Indians as caricatures, mascots, and characters from westerns invisible in “modern” society, rather than living, breathing people;
  8. makes it acceptable to refer to economically disadvantaged Whites as “trash” and dismiss their needs while making the excuse that they must have done something wrong to be in their position because they’re White and should be succeeding.

Maybe if we did this we could focus on the problems we have in common and work together to find solutions for them, instead of pointing the finger at individuals and particular races. Why not give it a try?

The Beauty of This Pageant

January 12, 2013

Often the discussion about so-called beauty pageants turns to whether these contests contribute to the objectification of women or their empowerment. But tonight a large focus will be on contestants for entirely different reasons.

Allyn Rose is a 24-year-old, representing Washington, D.C., who will be undergoing a double mastectomy after the pageant. Allyn’s mother, grandmother, and great aunt all died of breast cancer. She’s taking this step as a preventative measure.

Mariah Cary–no, not the singer (Carey)–has Tourette’s Syndrome and she will represent Iowa. Mariah was diagnosed when she was 8 years old. The Burlington, Iowa native has made Tourette’s her platform.

And then there’s Alexis Wineman. The 18-year-old Miss Montana has autism, borderline Asperger’s syndrome. Alexis learned she has autism when she was eleven. As Miss Montana and as a Miss American contestant, she has made living with autism her platform.

It would be wonderful if any of these women–or any of the other contestants with personally inspirational stories that have gone un- or under-reported–would win, because they could use the crown to spread greater awareness about their personal issues. However, they’ve shown that competing locally, winning in their respective states/districts, and being in the paegant have already given them a larger platform to educate people. A Miss America they’d have even greater recognition.

After the rush online and in other media to identify autism as the reason why the horrendous murders in Sandy Hook took place, it would be especially great if Alexis Wineman took the crown. She has shown and will continue to show that just as with people who do not have autism have many faces (i.e. great diversity), so do people that have autism.

No Quick Answers in Sandy Hook

December 16, 2012

News that the shooter, murderer in the Sandy Hook tragedy, might have been living with Asberger’s Syndrome has unfortunately paved the way for some to point to the disorder as an explanation as to why he took a gun and murdered innocent people.

Using Asberger’s or any form of autism as a scapegoat is ridiculous. While we need to learn more about autism, we do know that most people living with it do not turn into mass murderers or even violent people who would harm others if only given the opportunity.

While the need to find answers in the wake of any tragedy is great and shared by most concerned people, grabbing for quick facts or rumors and trying to form them into a motive is a very dangerous, and ignorant, thing.

Most murderers are not living with autism or any other developmental disorder or for that matter, mental or emotional disorders. Do those of us who are not living with developmental, mental, or emotional disorders look at ourselves in the mirror when a murder takes place and shudder in horror at the face staring back? Do we run to get professional help because someone “like us”, living with or without what we are living with or without, has committed a heinous crime. Do we run away when we see others who we believe to be living with no developmental disorders or emotional or mental problems on the streets or in our schools or workplaces because we have stereotyped them as potentially violent and dangerous beings?

The Jeneba Project (Do Something)

February 8, 2011

The Jeneba Project via Do Something http://ow.ly/3Ri4L Improving education internationally

Social Justice Curriculum for Youth

February 6, 2011

How can we raise more socially conscious and empathetic children? We can help promote social justice through building healthy relationships. In British Columbia, school districts implemented curriculum that promotes social justice for students in grades 6-12. The assessment of the program (Respectful Relationships), which measured surveys taken before and after program implementation was very positive, indicating significant gains in socio-emotional growth for students. Students self-reported enjoying the program and learning a lot from it. The program was spearheaded by the Saltspring Women Opposed to Violence and Abuse (SWOVA) Community Development and Research Society,

http://ow.ly/3Reh7