Point of View Columns

Do Black Lives Matter?

During the past week a new book Ghettoside,  by Jill Leovy, appeared in bookstores across America. Ms. Leovy chronicles the progression of homicide in South Central Los Angeles, but the story that she tells chronicles a national disaster that has been created over the past several decades – a disaster that begs the question, do black lives matter?

The statistics are numbing and serve to anesthetize the sensibilities of the American public in general as well as those of the national black community. But we can try to focus.

• Black Americans comprise approximately 13% of this country’s population.
• African American males make up approximately 6% of the American population.
• African American males comprise 40% of the people murdered in this country.
• Over 90% of African American murder victims are killed by African Americans

While these are numbers that would warm the heart of any member of the Ku Klux Klan, they should be horrifying for any person of good will or decent conscience. The homicidal mayhem being waged against the black community by members of the black community would be considered genocide if the perpetrators were of another hue.

This decimation of the black community must be seen within the larger context of the high levels of incarceration which the black community experiences. Recalling the fact that black Americans make up 13% of the population of the United States, it is stunning to realize that 40% of the prison inmates in this country are of African descent. Further, the overwhelming number of these black inmates are men between the ages of 18 and 34.

It is simply not possible to amputate such a significant part of any community – by murder, mayhem or selective law enforcement – without eviscerating that community and damaging the prospects for that community to be a full partner in the larger society. These are not excuses or rationalizations. These are the facts.

The search for solutions to this seemingly implacable vicious cycle is the only useful and rational response. Better education, more employment opportunities, reformation of the law enforcement and penal systems are certainly important steps on the road to progress.

The marginalization of cultural messages that glorify “thugs” and all their accoutrements is also a necessary strategy. The reality of “Ghettoside” is that it is not only found in Los Angeles, Ghettoside is a part of black America that must be recognized, addressed and eliminated.

Let the first step be recognition of the crisis. The next steps must be born out of creativity meeting innovation meeting imagination.

The future depends on it.

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Point of View Columns

Drama in the Fourth Quarter

Recently, President Obama pointed out something that the fans of the National Football League Seattle Seahawks (and the fans of the Green Bay Packers) experienced firsthand last weekend – the fourth quarter can be an interesting time in sports. And, as President Obama’s most recent State of the Union address shows, the fourth quarter of the Obama Administration may prove to be just as interesting as the Seahawks-Packers game.

During this week’s State of the Union speech, another of facts of American political life became apparent. First, despite the tsunami of attacks, insults, falsehoods, conspiracy theories, faux scandals (think birther or Benghazi, to name a few), President Obama still contends, he still competes, he still adheres to a vision in which the people of this country have a better life.

Second, it is also clear that the Teapublican majority in the House and Senate is not prepared to cede even the slightest credit for anything to this president. While applause meters should not be seen as a definitive indicia of much of anything, the protocols of SOTU speeches do call for applause and the Teapublicans would not, seemingly could not, applaud such mayonnaise on white bread good news items as the historic decline of unemployment, the lessening reliance on foreign oil or the fairly benign notion that the minimum wage should be raised from its current, hardly luxurious $7.25 level.

Indeed, the only time that the Teapublican cabal applauded spontaneously is when President Obama mentioned that he would never run for office again. It was, however, a move that the Teapublicans immediately regretted as the president reminded them that he was not running anymore because he had beaten them in the last two elections – thereby proving once again that at times silence really is golden.

Real world, real time issues like education, immigration reform, tax reform and the implementation of a reality-based environmental policy all need to be in the forefront of policy decision-making in Washington. The Teapublicans offer little hope that they have any interest in improving the quality of life for anyone given the fact that their first act in the new Congress was to bring a bill to the floor that articulates draconian restrictions on abortion – as if this issue is what keeps the majority of Americans awake at night. Female Teapublicans squelched this particular bit of grandstanding, but it is an unfortunate sign of things to come.

Meanwhile, another highlight of President Obama’s speech was his call for the lifting of the Cuban trade embargo, a punitive policy that was a failure at the beginning, a failure for the past half century and is a failure to this very day. And in this instance, failure means that the trade embargo has done nothing to change the political environment in Cuba, it has imposed unnecessary harm and damage on the Cuban people, and it has denied economic opportunities to American firms who cannot compete with companies that are based in more enlightened – or pragmatic – countries.

Needless to say, the Teapublican leadership seems intent on clinging to this hoary and worn out relic of the Cold War, even as the Berlin Wall has become part of the pavement between East and West, even as Vietnam and the People’s Republic of China have become robust trading partners with this country. What is it about Cuba that warrants such enmity and political hatred?

For the answer to that question, one would have to ask the aging, Castro-obsessed Cubanos in Florida and New Jersey. They are clearly the tail that is wagging the Teapublican dog in this case and it would seem that they don’t have any real answer except that they want Cuba to go back to the good old days that they remember in their fizzled dreams – and it ain’t gonna happen.

Meanwhile, President Obama is pursuing a progressive agenda that, while far from radical, does move the country in a different direction than that proposed by the likes of John Boehner, Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney, Ted Cruz, et. al. As noted, the fourth quarter should be interesting.

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Point of View Columns

A Tale of Two Tragedies

It is a part of human nature that the latest outrage, the latest tragedy, will overshadow the disaster that precedes it. So it should come as no surprise that the carnage related to the shootings at the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris has riveted the attention of much of the global media. What should be a surprise, or at least a cause for concern, is that the ongoing death march being conducted by Boko Haram in Nigeria barely moves the media needle.

Last week self-proclaimed Islamic jihadists wreaked murder and havoc in Paris and spread fear through much France. The reaction of the French government and its allies around the world was immediate and swift. With the deaths of seventeen people, over 18,000 French police and military personnel were deployed to seek and kill the perpetrators and to act as a deterrent to further terrorist actions.

Within days of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, leaders from most of Europe (and Israel and the Palestinian Authority) marched through the streets of Paris in an unprecedented show of unity and determination. These images, which were carried around the world, conveyed an opposition to the reign of terror proposed by jihadist terrorists who had attacked a little more than 100 hours earlier.

Meanwhile, in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, the streets moved with business as usual. This, despite the fact that about a week before the slaughter in France, the killers who call themselves Boko Haram attacked and killed as many as 2000 men, women and children. This, despite the fact that during the past few years thousands of Nigerians have been slain by Nigerians, the murderers calling themselves inspired by their God, although it would seem that their motives and calling come straight from Hell.

Nevertheless, the same leaders who marched the streets in Paris are nowhere to be found in Nigeria. Nevertheless, the response of the Nigerian government, with the largest military force in Africa, has been tepid at best and obviously ineffectual.

Despite the fact that Boko Haram threatens to destabilize the largest economy on the African continent, the African Union has been muted in its response to this regional threat. And, despite the obvious trampling of the human rights of the Nigerian people, there has been no call in the halls of the United States Congress or the White House to “do something” to stop these war crimes against humanity.

This tale of two tragedies reveals that it matters where crimes against humanity occur and who the victims are. A terrorist monstrosity raises its bloody head in Europe and a million voices are raised against it and robust military action takes place immediately. A terrorist monstrosity of even greater magnitude in Africa spills out over the media channels and the response in Africa is undeniably weak and the global response reveals that human rights violations in Africa are simply not a priority.

Of course, given the less than robust response to the depredations of Boko Haram by the African Union and the Nigerian government, it is difficult to understand how the former African colonialists and neo-colonialists are supposed to come to the rescue. And without an African response to the death and destruction currently raging in West Africa, there is no doubt that the global response will be rhetorical at best.

All lives matter. All lives have intrinsic value. All murder is senseless, whether it occurs in Ferguson, Paris or Nigeria. But it is clear that the venue of the tragedy and the identity of the victims do matter. And that is an injustice that simply cannot be allowed to continue.

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Point of View Columns

Thank you for being a follower of Point of View – here are the stats for 2014 – Point of View is now followed in over 60 countries around the world…so wherever you are…thank you!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

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Click here to see the complete report.

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Point of View Columns

A Matter of Life and Death

It should come as no surprise that there is not much new in this New Year. After all stubbornness is as much a part of the human condition as occasional genius, and neither feature is observant of the calendar.

Which brings us to the societal conflagration in America, most recently occasioned by the tragedies in Cleveland, Ferguson and Staten Island, but the embers of this particular inferno have been smoldering for centuries. The absolute need and desire for enforcement of the law in communities of all color has been in regular conflict with the underlying history of government sanctioned brutality against people of color in this country.

A thorough understanding reveals serious stains and scars on the glorious image that has misinformed and misguided us for centuries. From the Black Codes of the 1600’s to the March of Tears and the Dred Scott decision and the birth of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1800’s to genocide in Tulsa and Rosewood and lynching sanctioned by legal inaction in the first half of the 20th century, there are real reasons why people of color are wary of law enforcement even as its necessity is recognized.

That is why it is logical, reasonable and rational for Americans of all colors to be outraged over the legal whitewashing of the lethal encounters with the police that occurred after the police homicides in Ferguson and Staten Island. There is no reason but racism that makes it plausible for every person of color to fear that any encounter with the police, no matter how innocuous, can have fatal results.

Nevertheless, there is a one ton gorilla standing in the crowds that protest racially tinged homicides that are accompanied by a badge. The outrage and disgust and demands for institutional and cultural changes in this country arise when there is a lethal outcome from an encounter between white police officers and victims of color.

The one ton gorilla stands by quietly as the marches and rallies and “die-ins” proliferate. The one ton gorilla can afford to be quiet because as long as it stays quiet it is seemingly invisible to the protestors who vociferously call for an end to the violation of human rights. The one ton gorilla is quiet because this simian giant represents the ongoing death of black Americans by guns in the hands of black Americans.

The one ton gorilla is ignored for reasons that defy logic or reality. More black people die at the hands of black people than by reason of racist law enforcement. If police were killing black people at the rate that black people kill black people there would be justifiable cries of “genocide”. Yet, a black person killing black people does not evoke a similar response.

In the sad aftermath of another sad murder, some candles are lit, there might be a march or two, but the outrage and disgust are strikingly absent. We are told that unemployment, absence of fathers, poor education somehow justifies the extinguishing of the life of another human being.

We also find that there is a glorification of a culture of violence and killing that is found in too many videos, songs and movies. And the promoters of that culture are idolized and imitated, leading to…………more violence and killing. And as the cycle spins the one ton gorilla sits silently and invisible.

There is no sense in arguing which death is worse….death by badge or death by thug. The victim is dead, the family is bereft and we are all lessened by the needless loss of life.

There is also no sense in ignoring the one ton gorilla.

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