Thursday, July 31, 2014

More on Racism in America

Eric Holder, Attorney General of the United States, recently commented that “some” amount of the criticism of the president is due to racism – the fact that he’s black. Holder’s comments are addressed in an earlier post. What I want to do here is share with my white readers where I think Holder was coming from based on my observations and conversations with African-American friends and co-workers over the years.

White people are generally oblivious to subtle signs of prejudice around them because we aren’t on the receiving end of these actions. So we may think there’s very little racism in this country, but black people see signs of it all the time. I’ve heard enough stories that I tend to believe they’re true and not imagined. I’ve witnessed a couple of these myself.

Under the surface most black people are angry. When the subject of their history comes up (slavery in particular), that anger can rise to the surface. Think of some of the public statements Harry Belafonte has made, for example. He is one angry man!

Black people believe their historical mistreatment is worse by far than what other groups have endured, such as American Indians, Irish immigrants, Jews, and other immigrant groups. Of course no other group has been enslaved and mistreated so much.

With these points in mind, you might now be able to see where Eric Holder was coming from when he made his controversial statement. I still believe he could have handled it better, but at least we now have some understanding of his frame of mind.

I recommend to white people that you keep these points in mind when interacting with African-American friends and co-workers. You might be thinking they’re too sensitive, or they should move on and not dwell on their mistreatment. But I ask that you be sensitive to their history and the day-to-day signs of prejudice that they observe that we typically don’t see.

Two Examples

I had gone to the conference office (like a diocesan office) where the bishop’s office is. This office was in a section of a large church complex. As I was waiting for my meeting to start, I was sitting in the lunch room reading the paper. The bishop, who was African-American, walked by, spotted me, and came into the lunch room to say hello. As we were talking, a middle-aged white guy poked his head into the lunch room and asked nobody in particular which way to the nursery school (which was housed in the complex).

The bishop, a tall, distinguished-looking man, wearing clerical garb (his collar), told him it was down the hall and to the right. The guy then looked at me and asked the same question! I gave the exact same answer as the bishop. The guy thanked me and then proceeded down the hall. The bishop and I just looked at each other.

Another time, my wife and I flew over to England to do some touring, and we arrived at our B&B mid-afternoon. We were hoping our room was ready so we could take a nap before dinner to help us deal with jet lag. So I pulled the car into a parking space by the house, and we went up to the door and rang the bell.

After a little bit, the door opened and a black woman appeared. I was slightly surprised, and what do you think I thought she was? You guessed it. The maid, of course! Fortunately, rather than asking for the owner, I asked if our room was ready. By now you must have guessed that this woman was the co-owner with her husband and a gourmet cook. I avoided what could have been an embarrassing situation, addressing her as the maid (although I’m sure it happens often).

But this goes to show how conditioned we are. A black woman opens the door, and we think she’s the maid. We see black kids playing in a neighborhood and we think we are in a less desirable part of town even though the houses are well-kept. So we have to be sensitive ourselves and not let stereotypes dictate how we think or view things.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Criticism of Obama Isn’t Racist

Eric Holder, Attorney General of the United States, recently commented that “some” of the criticism of President Obama comes because he is African-American. In other words, Holder is claiming that some amount of Right Wing criticism is racist. Holder was very careful in the way he said it, saying only “some” of the criticism is race-based, but how much is “some?”

I know prejudice still exists, and will always exist in the hearts of sinful people (that means all of us, because all have sinned and fall short of God’s standard). Sometimes our prejudice is mild, such as having a low opinion of some group or another (often involving stereotyping). Sometimes it is stronger, often involving subtle but overt actions. For some, it is absolute hatred (think KKK or neo-Nazis). I would like to share some thoughts as I reflect on Holder’s comments.

1. If you want to play in the big leagues, you better be able to take the heat. If a black president (or attorney general) is criticized, they can’t blame it on racism. It’s the way the game is played, like it or not.

2. Obama was elected by a majority, so it’s obvious that many whites voted for him. That’s not bad when you consider what things were like in 1964, the year the civil rights legislation was passed.

3. Certainly there is a small element of the population that dislikes Obama because he’s black, but those aren’t the people in the public eye. What Holder and others are trying to do is paint the Republicans as racist just because they are doing what the opposition party always does: critiques and criticizes the incumbent president. Even for Washington politics, what Holder and others are claiming is pretty sleazy.

Holder could have worded his comments something like this and avoided the controversy:
“The criticism of the president is typical Washington politics, business as usual. I don’t believe race has anything to do with it. However, I wish the tone in Washington would improve and we could relearn the art of compromise rather than continue the dysfunction we see today.”

Unfortunately Holder chose to say something else, and now we have another thing to divide the parties and the races.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Hamas Is at Fault

If anybody still believes Israel is the aggressor, they either aren’t listening to the news or are in serious denial. A cease fire agreement was reached recently – guess who broke it. Another cease fire was arranged so humanitarian aid could be brought into Gaza – guess who broke it. What’s wrong with Hamas? They interfere with humanitarian aid to the very people they claim to be fighting for!

The TV news shows interviews with beleaguered hospital staff tending to the wounded, complaining of shortages of supplies and medicines. Yet thousands of dollars’ worth of rockets are being fired into Israel every day. Couldn’t the money (wherever it’s coming from) be better spent in building up a modern community at peace with Israel (including better hospital facilities)?

Hamas and other terrorist organizations are hurting their own people more than the Israelis they are fighting against. I believe the Palestinian people should rise up against these organizations and throw them out of their territories. Hamas, not Israel, is the real enemy of the Palestinian people.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Expectations of Privacy

Now that the dust has settled on the Donald Sterling affair, I’d like to bring out a few points for your consideration.

With security cameras everywhere, the NSA tracking phone calls, companies following your every move, hackers breaking into computers and networks, stores tracking your movements, and all kinds of other surveillance going on, there is little expectation of privacy these days. Yet the Supreme Court, in various decisions over the years, has interpreted the US Constitution to have an implied right to privacy in it. This right is being flagrantly violated by the above mentioned entities. Nevertheless, there are still certain reasonable expectations of privacy: in your own bedroom, and in private conversations in your home, office, car, or on your telephone. The release of Sterling’s private conversation is a gross violation of his right to privacy, and should be punished.

Sterling Set Up

While I’m not defending Donald Sterling’s apparent prejudice, I believe we have to take a look at what he said in context, and see what’s behind all the hoopla. This should give us some insight that we won’t get from the media.

It is obvious he was set up. Somebody wanted to take him down, to ruin his reputation, rob him of his basketball team, publically humiliate and discredit him, and relieve him of $2.5 million. To accomplish all that, he was prompted by a female friend/associate/mistress (or whatever she is to him), setting him up to say some inappropriate things about African-Americans during this illegally recorded conversation. Yet nobody is being investigated concerning this clear violation of his right to privacy and what appears to be a conspiracy to seriously discredit him.

Sterling’s Dementia

There are some factors in this affair that should be understood, and which might then put Sterling’s punishment in perspective. One big mitigating factor is Sterling’s mental capacity. His wife said in an interview that he has dementia, and I tend to believe her. Nobody in their right mind and in his position would say such things over the telephone. The same goes for his Magic Johnson comments during a mea culpa interview with Anderson Cooper. It appears to me that his mental capacity is severely diminished. He was led to say some stupid things during a recorded conversation, and then the recording was made public.

Punishment Too Harsh

I don’t know what’s really in his heart, but there certainly has been a rush to judgment. One has to ask, “Does the punishment fit the crime?” Although I haven’t heard the complete conversation, let’s look at a few facts based on what I know:

1. It was a private conversation, not a public statement. The fact that it was a private conversation that was recorded and released to the public should cause the NBA and others to consider whether they became unwittingly part of the conspiracy to take down Sterling.

2. The US Constitution guarantees freedom of speech no matter how unpopular, obnoxious, or hateful that speech is. There’s a lot of “protected speech” that you and I might find appalling, but is constitutionally protected according to the Supreme Court.

3. He didn’t use the “N-word” or similar hateful words or expressions.

4. He didn’t say terrible things about African-Americans that I’m aware of. Mostly he said he didn’t want this woman bringing them with her to basketball games. While that’s not a good thing to say, it certainly falls short of true hate speech as I understand it.

5. Christians, people of faith, conservatives, and others who are not politically correct are demeaned, mocked, and ridiculed all the time by the likes of Bill Maher, Stephen Colbert, and other TV personalities. Why aren’t they condemned for vicious hateful speech? It seems we have a double standard, which highlights the hypocrisy of the politically correct crowd.

Thought Police

Lastly, in addition to Sterling’s diminished mental capacity, we should also take into consideration his generation. They are often not politically correct and don’t understand its inconsistencies. For example, I know older people who still refer to a black person as a “colored” person because that has been the accepted term during most of their life. You can say “a person of color” but not a “colored person” in the wacky world of political correctness.

Given my understanding of what happened and what Sterling said, I believe the punishment is too severe for the offense. While I certainly don’t condone the attitude and opinion inherent in his conversation, I believe such severe punishment brings us dangerously close to the “thought police” and the mentality of the novels “1984” and “Brave New World.”

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Israel’s Right to Exist

As soon as the media starts reporting on Israeli attacks against the Palestinian terrorists, the Palestinian sympathizers are out demonstrating in front of the Israeli embassy or consulate, or the UN. They are demonstrating against Israel despite the Palestinians being the aggressors! That doesn’t make any sense. Israeli civilian neighborhoods are attacked and Israel is the bad guy? Where’s the logic in that?

Their usual response is that Israel is occupying Palestinian land and the Jews should get out. The response to that ridiculous statement is lengthy and will have to be the subject of another post, but let me make a few points about Israel’s right to exist:

1. Israel for the Jews and Jordan for the Arabs were carved out of the British Mandate in 1948. There was no Palestinian state, and there has never been one. In carving up the mandate, the Arabs got a lot more land than the Jews.

2. Israel was legally established in accordance with the United Nations resolutions, and has been recognized by many nations around the world.

3. The only “occupation” of land by Israel is land seized in response to unprovoked attacks by surrounding Arab nations. As a matter of fact, Israel gave back to Egypt the Sinai Peninsula.

What’s the Point?

One has to ask, what’s the point of these Palestinian rocket attacks? It is to induce terror, presumably to drive Israel to the point that the Jews abandon their country and settle elsewhere. After all, it is the stated goal of Hamas and other terrorist organizations to “drive the Jews into the sea.” We must never forget that. Meanwhile, the Jews aren’t going anywhere, so the Palestinians might as well get used to it.

Israel is militarily powerful and able to defend itself from the terrorists. It is the Palestinian people who are paying the penalty and will continue to suffer if these rocket attacks continue. If Hamas really cared about the Palestinian people, they would seek peace with Israel. Rocket launchings would stop, Israeli strikes would stop, and eventually the Palestinians would have a much better quality of life than the squalor many of them endure today. Israel is a modern, prosperous country, and the Palestinians could share in that if they just decided to coexist with Israel.

So I say to the Palestinians, in the words of the famous song, “Give peace a chance.”

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Middle East Reporting

With the recent escalation of attacks between the Palestinians and Israelis, there’s been more media coverage than usual. Sadly, media reporting is somewhat one-sided in that it subtly favors the Palestinians and tends to make the Israelis look like the bad guys. Let me explain how this favoritism works so you can watch for it.

1. Little Reporting Earlier

Notice that there had been little reporting about this conflict despite the fact that the Palestinians had been shooting rockets into Israeli civilian neighborhoods for a long time. But as soon as Israel retaliates and Palestinians are at risk, the media are all over that story.

2. Israel Portrayed as the Bad Guy

If the Mexicans were shooting rockets from Tijuana into San Diego daily, how long do you think the U.S. would put up with it? In such a situation, any country would take strong measures to stop the attacks. Yet when Israel finally conducts operations against these terrorists, it is portrayed as the bad guy.

3. Surgical Strikes

As far as I know, the Palestinians have not warned an Israeli neighborhood that a rocket attack is imminent and to take shelter. Israel, on the other hand, has warned Palestinian neighborhoods of upcoming attacks and told them to evacuate. Sadly, there are civilian casualties despite the warnings and the “surgical” nature of the Israeli attacks. Collateral damage is always a risk, but compare that to the Palestinians who are actually targeting civilians. The media seems to be missing that key point.

4. Casualties

The media reports duly mention the rocket attacks on Israel, and show Israeli heading for the bomb shelters. Then they immediately cut to scenes of wailing Palestinian women and men carrying the body of a fallen comrade through the streets, the unfortunate victim of an Israeli attack. Again, the effect is to make Israel look like the bad guy, killing all those innocent people.

Let’s not forget that those “innocent people” have been shooting rockets into innocent Israeli neighborhoods for years. As mentioned above, no matter how “surgical” the strikes, there will always be some collateral damage. If the Palestinian terrorists stopped the rockets, Israel would stop its strikes. Nobody dies. It’s as simple as that.

The main reason there haven’t been more Israeli casualties is because Israel has sophisticated defenses and warning systems. The people are warned when a rocket is launched and coming their way, and the Israeli anti-missile defense system shoots down most of the Palestinian rockets before they can do any damage.

5. The Language Used

The reporters usually refer to the Palestinians shooting the rockets as “militants.” That is a euphemism which is inappropriate. Call them what they are: Terrorists. A terrorist induces terror into a population. If you had rockets aimed at your neighborhood, don’t you think you’d be terrified? Call them what they are. Don’t sugarcoat it.

More about Israel and its right to exist in a future post.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Change of Heart

Years ago, when the Affirmative Action law was passed, the company I worked for conducted sensitivity training for employees. This was to prepare us for the anticipated influx of women and minorities. The trainer said to us, “The purpose of this training is not to change your heart, although we hope it happens. We can’t change your heart, but we can change your behavior. And your behavior will change.”

That trainer was right. Only God can change a person’s heart, but the person must be willing to be changed. The failure of worldly ways of changing hearts (and often behavior as well) has been demonstrated in recent events. The most obvious recent event involves Donald Sterling, who, in a private telephone conversation, came across as racist (see future post for more on this). Some celebrities have said demeaning things about women recently, and rap music often degrades women as well.

It seems that no amount of political correctness or cultural pressure can change people’s hearts. This country needs a change of heart that can only be done by God:

1. Most importantly, we need to turn back to God, and take seriously the motto on our money: “In God We Trust.”

2. We then need to return to the values that made this country great – not perfect – but great. Only God can do that.

3. If we’ve done these first two things, then mostly everything else will fall into place that needs to be corrected if those who come to God take their faith seriously and follow the Scriptures.

4. Finally, we need to change our culture from one of crudeness, materialism, self-centeredness and excess to one that reflects good values. We tolerate entirely too much violence, sex, nudity, and the occult in the media and games.

Let’s face it. This country is a mess. We are heavily in debt, we have a dysfunctional Congress that is incapable of action, we have a serious substance abuse problem, our economy is weak, and we have lost status in the world. We continue to turn away from God just at the time we need some divine intervention. Let’s not sit back and let a few militant atheists and misguided judges eliminate God from our nation. Let we the people set the agenda and may it be one of faith, hope, and charity.