Social Justice Junkie
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I’ve thought about this more than I wanted; that being black is worse than having cancer! And that’s because cancer is potentially curable. Blackness is not. There is no pill, injection, therapy, or modalities that will restructure a black person’s predicament. Not true with cancer. Being black is a target. Born black is a stigma, a cast die, fixed; once the hand is dealt, blacks must deal with it the best way possible. And sometimes one’s best isn’t good enough. Take President Obama: the night of his 2008 Inauguration, some 14 republicans met in a steakhouse in the U. S. Capitol, and vied not to cooperate with him. And for the most part they haven’t. His black skin told them so. This has hurt many citizens. What had he done to these republicans? Nothing. And to be called a “subhuman mongrel”? Why? His black skin said so. Black skin sends a negative message that says you’re different, less than; you’re not good enough; you don’t belong; we can’t trust you; and we don’t want you. Go away. Black skin says there’s no justice for all.

How would you feel upon entering a university door, with enthusiasm, and be asked, “Are you security?” or, “Are you in charge of custodial services? There’s a commode in the women’s bathroom that’s not working.” What would be your response? Mind you, you’re dressed relatively professionally, coordinated suit and tie, nicely shined shoes, chin up, chest out, and walking with confidence, headed to teach a graduate education class. Your black skin says you don’t belong in this institution of higher learning; or, since you’re here, we relegate you to certain positions; your black skin assumes you are the toilet cleaner, or worse.

How does it feel in a world where you are a target of suspicion, fear, hatred, less than, a societal problem? How does it feel to be stopped by the police knowing you had better monitor your movements, your hands, gestures, what you say, how you say it. And though you may have a book bag full of credentials, your black skin says, “You…do…not…count!” And you could be shot. Mind you, dead men don’t talk. How does it feel to be different and the target of difference? And what if you walked into an upscale furniture store with intent to purchase, and you’re asked three times, not once, but three times: “Are you’re sure you’re in the right store?” And each time you say, yes because the gift certificate has the store name right on it. My skin color spoke: “You should NOT be in this store!”

Back to the university, again, skin color spoke: “you do not belong in this university. At times you can do little to rewrite the story or the message, no matter how respectful, how educated, how patient, how supportive, trustworthy, open, giving; it just doesn’t seem to move the needle from where someone pigeon-holes you because your skin black. It can result in death—yours. Since these are some of my unfavorite things, I will never know what it’s like just to be.

The skin color of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis spoke, saying they didn’t belong in this world. And they are no longer with us, no longer on the planet, and will never walk this earth again to tell their stories. And that’s because they were targets; their skin color said so. Imagine being shot while black, while walking, drinking ice tea, and eating skittles, or listening to “thug”? music. Let’s not forget: Martin Luther King begged for justice for decades—murdered. Medgar Evers worked for voting rights, shot in the back—murdered. Did these men commit crimes? No. And they are dead because their skin color spoke.

Finally, I must add a contribution from our former Secretary of Education, William Bennett. When asked by a news reporter how he would reduce crime. Bennett’s response was, “…I do know that it’s true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could — if that were your sole purpose — you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down.” Black skin told him that. And that was his suggested strategy to reduce crime—abort all black babies. Really, Mr. Secretary!?

What message does your skin color send?

And when will it stop? My answer is: Never!
Where does this come from?
What are your thoughts?

Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink
Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink
Samuel Taylor Coleridge—“The Rime of the Ancient Marnier” (1798)

You’re sitting in your living room and suddenly you remember to take your medication; you head to the kitchen, turn on the water faucet—nothing happens—not one drop of water. That’s what’s happening in California’s Sacramento Valley, San Joaquin Valley, and other valleys. These valleys help feed the millions of people. And they need water. According to the Huffington Post, these shortages of water will drive up food cost. Examples: to produce one gallon of milk, it takes 880 gallons of water; to produce one pound of beef, it takes 1,799 gallons of water; one pound of rice, 449 gallons.
 
“You never miss your water ‘til your well runs dry,” is from a blues song written by Don Cornelius, creator of the dance show, “Soul Train.” Pretty soon we will start missing our water because the wells have begun to run dry.
Our national leadership is silent when it comes to America’s water shortage that results from fracking, chemical spills, and shipping large bladders of it to China—mind you, these large bladders are sucked from America’s Great Lakes!
 
Just how serious is our water shortage? Our wells are being drained dry right under our nose; and we sit complacent, docile, vulnerable—how exceptional!!
 
After you watch the video at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tx65EeLk4Ro, think of these questions:
1. Why are we allowing corporations to take water from America’s Great Lakes and ship it to China in huge bladders?
2. How come the Bush family bought 100,000 acres of land in Paraguay, where the world’s largest aquifer is?
3. Why did T. Bone Pickens, the billionaire oil magnet, buy the largest aquifer in the U. S.?
4. Is water becoming more valuable than oil? If so, what does that portend for the masses?
5. Which chemicals are being put in our water sources? Why? And, which chemicals are put in the plastic water bottles that are made in China?
6. Why is our water being privatized and sold back to us at some $4 per gallon?
 
If the content of the video mentioned above is true, our water sources are being severely compromised. The main reason for that is because of our largest deficit: Leadership. Former U. S. Comptroller, David Walker says, “Our largest national deficit is a leadership deficit.” With few exceptions, our national leaders are dysfunctional, and with impunity. And there’s no structure in place to hold them accountable. It is estimated that within 20 years, only the wealthy will have access to water. What about the rest of us? And should we remain silent?
 
What are your thoughts?

Ah, America’s dance with Exceptionalism! Exceptionalism to me means special, erudite, or wise, not mean, insolent, arrogant, or conceited, pretentious. Being number one does not always ensure wisdom or brilliance. In my view, we fall under the notable and remarkable references as we hold the number one position as jailer of the world. According to Charles Murray, author, America is no longer the unique nation it thought. Having the most guns per capita and the highest murder rate than other industrialized nations is not Exceptionalism. This is not what we think of when we couple the United States with Exceptionalism.
 
Not to bore you with exceptional statistics, but a few points for consideration may be in order: a large number of American citizens are in poverty; many are without health care; less than a third have a college education; approximately one-third is functionally illiterate; one-half is innumerate. Racial profiling is rampant; war against women is relentless; elimination of public schools is ongoing; violence in schools is increasing. The list goes on. How do these behaviors make America Exceptional? And what does this portend for this nation state?
 
Given the above mentioned conditions, and many, many more, if America doesn’t change its thinking and behavior, not only will it not be exceptional, it will not be the nation it once was; for over 70 years I have watched our Exceptionalism be snuffed out by our avoidance of accuracy, fairness, equity, and social justice for all. Our avoidance of sitting in the pain of our country’s status such as: broken, struggling, eroding, in transition, entrenched, you pick a descriptor.
 
This is a wonderful country; yet, our leaders work very hard to ruin it; our leaders abuse their position and their privilege; they abuse the civility of its citizens; meaning, the citizens are tolerant, docile, forgiving—often too much so. And the abusers continue to exploit with abandon. Greed is the driver; money is the fuel that feeds the greed machine.
 
Finally, I will submit, having traveled much of the world, served in a variety of leadership roles, watched people respond to the USA over the years, I see a shift in the world’s dialogue. I hear changes about how we are viewed, valued, and tolerated. I see the strain and I anticipate if the national leaders don’t change, if the national leadership structure doesn’t change, America will fall as other empires.
 
Why are we attached to this notion of Exceptionalism? What are your thoughts?
 
Stay tuned for Part II

For Schools in general and Parents in Particular
 
Why is it that some children hear only 600 or fewer words per hour from their parents? And what are the academic and developmental consequences of hearing such few words per hour? If you don’t know the power of conversation with your children, then perhaps you should look at your parenting skills. And as the saying goes, “Having children makes you about as much a parents as having a piano in your home makes you a pianist.” Now that may sound a bit harsh. But some parents just don’t talk to their children for whatever reason.
 
While sitting in a restaurant one morning having breakfast with my friend, we noted a father and son sitting face-to-face, having breakfast. The son struggled with his knife, fork, and food, trying to get scrambled eggs into his mouth. Meanwhile, the father was busily working his Smart-Phone or some media gadget. This behavior continued for some 30 minutes without a word said to the son. As I left the restaurant, I stopped by their table briefly to say hello and see how old the son was. “He’s four,” the father said proudly. That little four-year-old boy didn’t hear a single word from his father for one-half hour. Why is that important?
 
In their research report, titled, “The Power of Talk (2nd ed.): Impact of Adult Talk… During the Critical 0-4 Years of Child Development,” Gilkerson and Richards, used three categories of children in their research as follows: they found that Children of welfare families hear 600 words per hour; children from middle class families hear 1,200 words per hour; and children of professional families hear some 2,300 words per hours. Gilkerson and Richards also found that by the time children of welfare families reach the age of 3, they will not have heard some 3,000,000 words; that’s million, in comparison to children of professional families. What does that portend for children from welfare families regarding school readiness, academic achievement, and development?
 
Being a child of the 600-word-per-hour group, I can attest to the consequences of hearing such few words per hour during my early childhood. As an adult I have not recovered and never will—it’s a life-long struggle with language, concepts, writing, and reading comprehension. As a teen and as a soldier, I was relentlessly teased by others for reading the dictionary for hours trying to improve my vocabulary. It all started from birth.
 
On a cotton plantation, where I was born, more often than not, we sharecroppers heard fewer than 100 words per hour; and for the most part, those 100 or fewer words were not fun to hear; and that’s because they were punishing: “You better get to work!” Or, “If you don’t hurry up, you’re going to get a beating!” Often the words were not for public consumption; they were vile, profane, and disturbing. Example: “Since you didn’t get it done, your ass belongs to me tonight after you go to sleep!” Such comments had a devastating psychological effect on a child, especially after working 10 or more hours in 90-degree heat; and now the child is too scared to go to sleep, but too tired not to.
 
When children hear such few words per hour, especially punishing words from their parents for several years, they are not nearly as ready for school as their peers of middle-class or professional families. Simply put, they are not ready to learn. And the worst of it is that most teachers, perhaps all, are not prepared, trained, or skilled in teaching children who have not heard those 3,000,000 words versus those who have. To exacerbate this situation, because of educational assumptions we often make, in many instances, children are misdiagnosed, mislabeled, misplaced, and mistreated. And they have little or nothing to do with their plight.
 
So, how can we as citizens, parents, community and schools leaders, church officials, Head Start staff and faculty help these children? How can we stay open to what is true for many children, respectfully meet them where they are, and ensure we do not leave them there?
 
Or, said differently, how do we contribute to the literacy of our nation’s children, in ways that will help them learn, develop, and experience educational justice?
What are your thoughts?
 
Reference used in this blog: Gilkerson, J. & Richards, J. A. (2009). The power of talk (2nd Ed.): Impact of adult talk, conversational turns, and TV during the critical 0-4 years of child development.

Leadership, Christianity, and Social Justice
Have you ever wondered about the relationship among leadership, Christianity, and social justice? These constructs mean different things to different people. Leadership may mean overseeing others, being out front, spouting orders, getting done what the leader wants done. To me, it means a process of inclusion, collaboration, participation. Christianity on the other hand, to me, means violence, colonizing, dominating, hanging, castrating, beating, drowning, starving, and taking what doesn’t belong to the “Christian”; at the same time, Christians espouse what Jesus said. I wonder how Jesus dealt with difference: culturally, ethnically, sexually, and religiously different others. What would Jesus say to our “leaders” who are Christian? And how does the foregoing relate to social justice, leader?
 
Social justice is about how we treat each other, irrespective of our otherness or our differences: cultural, ethnic, sexual, thinking, economic, age, capabilities, etc. FDR captures a version of social justice: “The test of our progress is not whether we add to the abundance of those who have much. It is whether we provide enough to those who have little.” Our leaders, possessors of wealth, power, and privilege, don’t or can’t hear FDR’s message. They can’t see or hear the voiceless: the elderly, hungry children, the homeless, the poor, etc. Yet they call themselves Christians. Social justice to them is a form of socialism.
 
I must add that social justice was invented by Christians, though Christians for the most part don’t practice it. Father Luigi Taparellli D’ Azeglio (1793–1862) invented social justice because he worried about how people would be treated based on problems he foresaw arising from the industrial revolution.
Speaking of how we treat each other, was Columbus a Christian? Was he a Christian and a leader? If we ask the Arawak Indians what happened to them when Columbus used cavalry, crossbows, small cannons, lances, sword, plus a large group of hunting dogs turned loose on them, tearing them apart, shredding their bodies, leading to genocide, what would they say? Of course, they are no longer with us. Thanks to the leader(?) and Christian, Columbus.
 
Was President Andrew Jackson a Christian? Yes, according to his biographers, Andrew Jackson spoke: “Our excellent constitution guarantees to everyone freedom of religion… All who profess Christianity believe in a Savior and that by and through Him we must be saved.” Though a lifelong Presbyterian, Jackson was pro-slavery; and, he was anti-Native American. He literally took 11 million (11,000,000) acres from the Choctaw and sent them on the “Trail of Tears” to Oklahoma. What a convenient euphemism—“Trail of Tears.” It should be “The Trail of Death,” because that’s what happened to many of them: thousands froze to death; many starved to death. How Christian is that? And how socially just is that, leader?

Behaviorally, what’s happening among our so called “leaders” who espouse Christianity today? Is their behavior any different now than when Columbus walked these grounds? Is the behavior of our so called Christians who are leaders socially just?
 
I don’t think there’s much difference in the behavior and thinking of contemporary Christians who call themselves leaders in 2013 and when Columbus was here. They espouse what the forefathers said, thought, meant, and did, in the name of Christianity; all the while depriving the elderly, children, and other helpless groups the basics: food, shelter, medical, etc., because of greed; they deprive what’s due those who put themselves in harm’s way for the nation: the Veterans. Is all of this consistent with the teachings of Christianity and what the forefathers said, leader?
 
Some may view this blog as one-sided, that my examples of Christian behavior foster one version of Christianity’s impact on society. You may be compelled to run a list of socially just examples as counterpoints to my views. However, I am addressing a need. A need we have in this nation to treat all with dignity, equity, impartially. Mother Teresa said it so passionately: “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”
 
Many of our leaders have either forgotten or never knew what Mother Teresa said. Some “leaders” suffer from economic, political, and social amnesia. They demonstrate an 18th-Century mindset in a 21-Century world. Many finished school so long ago, they haven’t a clue what’s happening in this nation, changes in demographics, what the citizens want, need, or more troubling: what they were elected to do or paid to do. Meaning, they aren’t doing the people’s work; they aren’t doing the nation’s work; and, they aren’t doing their jobs; and yet, they are on the “People’s Payroll.” And they call themselves leaders? Christians? In my view, they are disingenuous and pathetic—results: social injustice.
 
The impacts are countless and visible everywhere: if our leaders were prepared to embrace Dr. Martin Luther King’s thinking: “Social injustice anywhere is social injustice everywhere.”
 
How do you feel about the affiliation among leadership, Christianity, and social justice?
What reactions are you having about our society under the current leadership?
What are your thoughts?
 
Source used in this blog: http://hollowverse.com/andrew-jackson/

Why does racism persist and leadership abstains?

I realize that this blog is a bit salty; but as long as we have law officers (justices), Agents, supremacists, dominant, privileged, oppressors, social justice will be impossible for all. When Justice Scalia uttered “voting as a racial entitlement,” I kept thinking of the meaning of it. I thought if we interrogated privileged entitlements, we would see Agent a-la Leticia Nieto. Agent is a synonym for: supremacy, privileged, oppressor, and dominance, plus. Historically, when it comes to voting it was forbidden, matter of fact, illegal, for Blacks to learn to read; yet, at voting sites, Whites administered literacy tests; if Blacks couldn’t read, they couldn’t vote. And now it’s called racial entitlements? That speaks volumes of the dominant group’s intent; of course, there are exceptions.
 
What is this about? It’s about denial of the reality of ethnically, racially, and culturally different others. Meaning, those of us (Targets) who differ from the dominant group have an abnormal reality. Said differently, the Target’s reality is not a concern for the Agent. And when it comes to Targets, our existence is subsidiary, insignificant. This helps to justify the utterance of “racial entitlements.” It justifies neo-colonialism, oppression, powering over and not powering with; it justifies protracted segregated schools, neighborhoods; it justifies the hatred, lynchings, drownings, bombing of homes and churches during the civil rights era. And in this case, since most Agents are from the dominant group, the idea is to make neo-colonialism normal. Specifically, keep America White: dominate, oppress, and exploit ethnically, racially, and culturally different others. So, how long will this dominance last?
 
As I see it, dominance won’t last much longer because there is more awakening in the world; there is more hatred toward us (U. S. Americans) from a variety of non-White countries and cultures. North Korea and many of the Muslin countries come to mind. What many of us don’t realize is that seven-eighth (7/8th) of the world is non-White. And if members of the 7/8th decide to collaborate or collude against the 1/8th (the White, dominant world) the entire world scene will change. Think of who attacked us on 9/11? Members of the 7/8th. Who hates this country with a burning passion to destroy it? Many members of the 7/8th. Also, think of “that little raggedy-ass country,” as President Johnson called it—Viet Nam. That little raggedy-ass country defeated us.
 
We lost that war despite the atrocities committed by Americans while in Viet Nam: My Lai, where more than 500 Vietnamese were slaughtered. According to the Embassy of Viet Nam in Washington, D. C, a tally shows: that 50 of the Vietnamese were three years old or younger; 69 were between the ages of four and seven; 91 were between eight and twelve; and 27 were in their seventies or eighties. And then, “Beers for Ears,” which went like this: “The more ears you brought back, the more beers you got,” per the documentary “Winter Soldier.” Finally, old men were used for target practice; young Vietnamese girls were raped, etc., etc. Again, we lost that war. And we don’t have the courage to discuss it. And yet, we want to pick a fight with Iran; North Korea is threatening to attack us; and we have a very tired and overworked military. Plus, we treat our veterans and many of our citizens like crap. And that’s because, with few exceptions, our leaders aren’t leading.
 
Now, I sincerely hope nothing happens to this country; then again, how do we awaken the conscious of this land? What if China and North Korea, plus Iran were to collude against us? What would that look like? Do we want a non-White force to occupy this land before we get the message that our behavior toward those who differ is not acceptable? “White man slaps 19-month-old Black Baby”? White man with Swastika demands that no Black nurses are to touch his White Baby?
 
Why aren’t our national leaders leading? And why is it that many of them behave like political harlots? They peddle and their influence to the corporations rather than lead the country. And when does the supremacy stop?
Your thoughts are welcome.

We the People—Not We the Party
A Call for Political and Economic Justice
Part I
 
“We are our choices.”
― Jean-Paul Sartre
 
I just want to talk about what I see, feel, and think. Our republic is led by those who have neither the skills nor the will to lead; either they are feckless, gutless or both. I say that because we have many perennial problems, affecting the majority of the more than three-hundred million American citizens, except for about two percent of the population, meaning those who have most of the wealth. So, what are some of those perennial problems?
 
We have created a culture of graft and greed. Graft is greed’s friend; they are mutually supporting. This creates inequality, poverty, illiteracy, and more. Here’s a quick example. It’s about a prominent discrepancy in the pay equity or fairness. There’s a CEO who makes $5,000,000 per week (that’s million); that $125,000 per hour. And I defy anyone to cite a metric that justifies such. Yet many who work in his company, earn less than $10 per hour; that’s a bit more than $20,000 per year; others earn less, thus not a livable wage. Furthermore, per the Congressional Budget Office, a huge share of the nation’s economic growth over the past 30 years has gone to the top 0.1 percent, whose average pay is $27 million per household, per year. The average income for the bottom 90 percent is $31,244 per household per year; therefore, a humongous discrepancy in pay, and one may say an excess or glut.
 
Another unending problem is that some 67% of corporations do not pay taxes. Yet our U. S. coffers are empty. The Economic Populist, Robert Oak, says,
“…America is broke and multinational corporations continue to blood suck the United States dry. …. The pattern becomes clear; U.S. Multinational corporations are out to not pay taxes, come hell or high water.”
 
This is supported by the Senate Subcommittee on Investigations who held a meeting on “Offshore Profit Shifting and the U. S. Tax Code,” who asked: “Did you know U. S. Multinational Corporations have more than $1.7 trillion in untaxed profits stashed as undistributed foreign earnings and keep at least 60% of their cash overseas?” Would someone please tell me why that is legal?
 

Now, what do these discrepancies portend for broke America? Though the list of unfortunate results is relatively endless, let me offer a few: since U. S. coffers are empty, there will be fewer services: fewer police officers, resulting in less citizen security; less money for the poverty-stricken, especially children; fewer teachers resulting in less education for American children. America cannot afford not to educate its citizens. No wonder we have 44 million adults who cannot read these words: cannot read, period. Plus, some 90 million who are functionally illiterate; meaning, they are unable to read and understand between the fourth and eighth grades. Another shocking statistic is that only about 26% of Americans have a four-year college degree. That in itself is astounding. Though there are many more perennial problems, I think you get the picture of where we stand. So, what does “We the people”—not, “We the Party” have to do with these and other sorts of issues?
 
“There are two primary choices in life: to accept conditions as they exist, or accept the responsibility for changing them”
― Denis Waitley
 
I often think about our choices. For most of my life I have immersed myself in facilitating the development of leaders and leadership via the classroom, training room, presentation halls, and living rooms. Realizing that I don’t have the power to change someone, I recognize many of us crave societal change. So how do we capture that energy? How do we support a group’s creativity, a People’s creativity toward choice-creation? I believe we can do it through “Choice-Creation.”
 
What choices should we make? Or, should I say what choices ought we make and what questions do we ask? I believe Brandon October, a South African vocalist who says it best: “The choices we make, determine our destiny.” We the people—not we the party, must create a different conversation: a choice-creating conversation. One way I have learned to do this is by using a strategy called Dynamic Facilitation, an effective yet different way of holding creative space for a group, opening up thinking, leading to a powerful level of creativity. In the process of shifting our thinking, we shift our consciousness, our conversation, says Rosa Zubizarreta, an experienced and seasoned Dynamic Facilitator. This process is about literally noticing what is alive in the room, listening to what participants have to say, drawing them out, by encouraging them to “say more.” To paraphrase Zubizarretas, “it is not about taking sides; it’s about “taking ALL sides.” This leads to self-organizing without regard to political party; thus: We the People, not, We the Party.
 
Mind you, this is not brainstorming. I liken it to organized chaos or self-organizing where the Dynamic Facilitator helps create a “whole landscape” of an issue, be it pay inequity, tax inequity, or school desegregation. Participants’ contributions may be understood by the following categories in this process of Dynamic Facilitation (Zubizaretta, 2012, p. 20):
 
Problem statements—Examples: how do we fix pay inequity? How do we amend the tax code, making it fair for all, including corporations? When it comes to compensation, how do we bring about economic justice? There is a culture of greed.
 
Solutions—or creative contributions from participants, examples: Totally revamp the American compensation system. Critically examine the worth of different jobs from different occupations. Think economic justice. Take the greedy to task in front of the community where they work and in front of their workforce.
 
Concerns—Examples: the rich will never agree to a revamped compensation system; or, the corporations will not endorse it. People aren’t educated enough to warrant more pay, Greed is here to stay.
 
Data—this category involves beliefs or perceptions about pay equity in this example; or a complaint about what works and what doesn’t; and statements about what participants believe. It may also include statistical information.
 
Ask yourself, how it would be to have few to no rules of engagement where your feelings of passion and peril are not only welcomed; they are needed. Where emotions are necessary to create the most salient choice, where what you say is recorded and becomes part of the group’s story, where you are not in a cue, where power is leveled to experience synergy; it is that synergy of mind and interest that weaves the room into a place it never expected to be.
Whereas this process is not a panacea, it has the potential to change our thinking regarding our issues, potential solutions, and possibly our worldview. I believe it will lead to choice-creating, away that we the people can not only get back in the game, but create a different game. And it is party-free: We the People—Not We the Party.
 
Since I cannot do justice to the Dynamic Facilitation process in this blog, please visit: http://wisedemocracy.org/; or http://tobe.net/ ; or http://www.societysbreakthrough.com/SBChapter5.pdf; or http://www.co-intelligence.org/P-dynamicfacilitation.html. You will see how this process is used in creating a different conversation of “we the people—not we the party,” potentially leading to both political and economic justice. Stay tuned for Part II.
 
Your thoughts?

Your Education is worth what you are worth.
Anon
Men are born ignorant, not stupid. They are made stupid by education.
Bertrand Russell

Whatever happened to our school systems since the first school was built April 23, 1635, in Boston, Massachusetts, has adversely affected our communities, our economy, and our nation. Yet we rave about American exceptionalism. We have a relatively uneducated citizenry: evinced by only 27.2% of Americans have a bachelor’s degree, per the U. S. Census Bureau; only 8.9% have Master’s degree; and only 3% have earned a doctorate. Now what do these statistics portend for this “great democracy”? What does it mean?

It means 14%, or 43 million Americans cannot read these words—that’s 43,000,000. Not only do they not know what they don’t know, they do not know THAT they don’t know; meaning, they think being illiterate is normal. Add that to the 93,000,000 (that million) functionally illiterate adults: they cannot read and understand material between the 5th and 8th grades. It also means that we have three million jobs that we cannot fill—3,000,000 unfilled jobs: no qualified applicants. So, the ones who have a college degree don’t have the necessary skills employers are seeking. It also means that most of the college graduates are unable to write a grammatically correct sentence; they don’t know the difference between a colon and a semicolon. Not only that but half the nation is innumerate; meaning half of our citizens cannot do simple fractions, are unable to add two- or three-column numbers, cannot “add and carry,” and cannot balance a checkbook.

And when it comes to high school, we have 12th graders who cannot do 5th grade work. How do we explain that? How are students allowed to advance to the 12th grade and not be able to do 5th grade work? Consequently, the Department of Education’s National Mathematics Advisory Panel, found that:
• 78% of adults could not explain how to compute the interest paid on a loan.
• 71% couldn’t calculate miles per gallon on a trip.
• 58% were unable to calculate a 10% tip for a lunch bill.
 
What are we doing to our students, ourselves, our nation? And how do we compare internationally? Well now, a report from Harvard University’s Program of Education (2012) found that American students ranked 25th in math, 17th in science, and 14th in reading. Should we take our country back to 1635, when the first school was built? Since our mantra is, “Let’s take our country back.” To where?

Finally, our dysfunctional education systems need educational leadership; we need national leadership; we need community leadership; and we need family leadership. Our biggest deficit is leadership. Ergo, until we “fix” our leadership situation, our economy will suffer. When our economy suffers, our citizens suffer. That means economic justice is relatively dead.
What are your thoughts?

We’re Not as Exceptional as We Think
Imagine a little boy watching his pregnant mother pushed to the ground by a tobacco-chewing, White row-walker, on a plantation in the Mississippi Delta. We’ll return to the plantation later.
 
Right now, I am furious. And I write this blog with rage and revulsion. I am distressed by the unabated, calcified, unmitigated, racial, sexual, and social discrimination we see today in 2012. And please don’t talk to me about what Jesus said and the word of God, until we talk of how we treat people.
 
We are good at cherry-picking the bible, the constitution, policy, our own memories, etc., without regard for how this affects the lives and well-being of fellow citizens. Our politicians want us to think that we are the most bodacious, bad-ass country on the planet and will manipulate the truth to uphold the shifting tides in our global leadership. Still number one, just elected the wrong leader; he’s not American enough, or capitalistic enough.
 
We can talk about the President, lie about him, badger him about his birth certificate, his ethnic origin, his college transcript, his religious affiliation, etc., all the while knowing that it’s not about that, but rather about the color of his skin. It is about getting, Barak Obama, that Black man out of that White House. Former Chief of Staff of former Secretary of State Colin Powell, made the most lucid and substantive statement about racism I have heard, especially coming from a White male.
 
Here’s what Colonel Wilkerson said. “My party, unfortunately, is the bastion of those people — not all of them, but most of them — who are still basing their positions on race. Let me just be candid: My party is full of racists, and the real reason a considerable portion of my party wants President Obama out of the White House has nothing to do with the content of his character, nothing to do with his competence as commander-in-chief and president, and everything to do with the color of his skin, and that’s despicable.” [Italics are mine.] Colonel Wilkerson made my day. See video: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/26/lawrence-wilkerson-colin-powell-sununu_n_2027721.html?utm_hp_ref=fb&src=sp&comm_ref=false#slide=1416197
 
Although it was amazing to see someone speak the truth, in my head, I continue to struggle with racism, hatred, dominance, violence, and oppression that I learned firsthand on Mr. Moore’s plantation. As mentioned earlier, as a child, at the age of eight in the “great state” of Mississippi, I watched a tobacco-chewing, plantation row-walker, push my pregnant mother to the ground; and as she lay holding her stomach, he spat tobacco juice at her. Had she not moved her head, the spit would have landed in her face. I will never forget her groans, the expression on her face, tears, as she struggled to get up. I attempted to help her and with help from the other sharecropper women, she got back on her feet and wiped her tears. All the while grown men stood, agape, and did nothing, because they wanted to live. That scene has played in my head since; and it appears in my head almost daily; it will not go away. How does one make sense of this behavior? And when I hear about this being a Christian nation, I ponder oppression, dominance. My insides churn.
 
When will the oppression and suppression of non-Whites, children, and women stop? Where is the leadership? Why so much social injustice?
 
I have watched dominance fulfill this country’s mantra for centuries. It started as European settlers murdered their way from East to West, lying to the Indians, killing them, taking their land, raping their women, pushing them to the reservations, violating treaties. Their skin wasn’t the “right” color, just as Blacks and Hispanics. The Indians were seen (and still are) different, not Christian, ethnically, culturally different, and treated differently, violently. Do we really think we can continue this way, in the 21st century?
 
Dominance. Violence. Oppression. Racism. Look at voter suppression, threatening signs in non-White neighborhoods, intimidation, false accusations of voter fraud. Not too long ago, the Freedom Riders fought and died for voting rights; some were beaten; many were murdered. The FBI transcripts are clear: Viola Liuzzo, James Chaney, Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, Medger Evers, and many more, lost their lives simply because they were helping fellow citizens exercise their right to vote. Today, again, in 2012, we still have to defend our right to vote, to stand our ground, reminding the powers that be, that we have a right to vote. Why? I am beyond frustration, anger, and being fed up! My strongest vote is for an “American Spring,” but without the violence. We, en masse, need to occupy every capitol place until the national leadership realizes what they are doing, or not doing.
 
Finally, what’s needed, in my view, is a change in worldview, leadership, and ideology. Racism, sexism, hatred, and violence will not keep this republic intact; will not create a strong nation from which we can offer the world leadership. A nation that can face its truths can be accountable to each other or hold complex discussions about these issues, leading to change. It will take a different leadership: one with audacity, authenticity.

Your thoughts are very welcome

Threats to Global, Social, Distributive, and Economic Justice
 
People are created to be loved. Things are created to be used. The reason the world is in chaos is because things are being loved and people are being used. —Aimi Razman
 
How do we explain the protests in the Middle East and other parts of the world? There is flag burning, bombing, firefights, murder, and mayhem. In my view, if we add a bit of dominance, and a pinch of patriarchy and privilege, we will have at least a portion of the answer. As a nation, we should rethink how we see the world, the planet, and the people occupying it. Our worldview is costing us severely: lives, money, and inclusion. Change in this regard requires different behaviors.
 
For centuries the dominant group has exerted its power, privilege, and patriarchy over women, people of color, culturally different others. Their power, privilege, and patriarchy are evinced by telling others how to live, where to live, where not to live, what to do, what not to do, how to be, how not to be, and the list goes on. Women are denied work or certain jobs because they are women, Blacks and Hispanics cannot live in certain places or buy that property because of what they are. Native Americans, the least discussed group and the poorest of all ethnic groups in America, struggle on reservations, isolated. Those relatively obvious examples have been alive and well and still are. These behaviors demonstrate control, greed, and being one-up. As we see in numerous (20) countries where citizens are responding by protesting, they don’t want to be controlled, dominated, abused; that means the landscape of dominance is changing: dominance is declining; hegemony is waning; the dominant group’s privilege is being threatened; their patriarchy is weakening. Ethnic groups and culturally different others have begun to affirm their presence, question their status, and assert their rights to be a part of this planet.
 
When it comes to global justice, social justice, economic justice, distributive justice, and the overall wellbeing of global citizens, dominance isn’t working for the benefit of all, only for a select few. So, how can we shift from using people and abusing people, to a support system that accommodates the different justices cited above? What would that look like? Would it minimize the unrest and civil strife? Would it eliminate the thousands of refugee camps, where millions of mostly women, children and the elderly suffer? My travel and experience tell me that most people, if not all, simply want the basics: food, shelter, clothing, clean drinking water, education, access to medical care, and most importantly control over their lives and well-being. Absent the basic will potentially lead to violence where innocent beings are hurt in many ways, not to mention that in some cases they are utterly slaughtered so that the dominant group retains control.
 
In closing, when it comes to the protests and chaos across the world, citizens who have been used are responding with violence, asserting their rights. And since the world population consists of one-eighth (1/8) dominant and seven-eighth (7/8) non-dominant, it is critical that those who exercise dominance, privilege, and patriarchy, change their behavior. If they don’t, I believe the response of the 7/8th will potentially lead to the worst world war imaginable.
 
What are your thoughts?