Point of View Columns

As the Ides of March Approach…

According to Shakespeare the Ides of March did not work out too well for Julius Caesar. And right now, it doesn’t like the Ides are accompanied by a whole lot of good things happening in these United States. Consider just two items taken from the news:

In Defense of White Male Supremacy

The sudden collapse of Silicon Valley Bank has brought to light any number of considerations and concerns with respect to the banking industry in particular, and the financial services universe writ large. Commercial banking is not supposed to be in the business of risky business, but somehow SVB missed that memorandum and the entire banking biosphere is concerned, and rightfully so.

 The pileup of Credit Suisse and Signature Bank and other banks are certainly evidence that the worse may be yet to come. The collective “we” are right to be worried.

And then along comes Senator Josh Hawley from Missouri, “The Show Me” state. And say what you will, Senator Hawley has certainly showed us.

You may remember him giving a fist salute to the assembled armed mob as it gathered outside the Capitol on January 6, 2021. And you may also remember him doing his best imitation of Usain Bolt as he sprinted for his life, fleeing from that same mob after it breached the Capitol.

He certainly showed us.

More recently, along with other white male supremacists, Hawley claimed that the reason for the collapse of SVB is that the board was too concerned with DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) concerns rather than focusing on the core business interests of the bank.

The unstated and underlying thought is that if the board consisted of white males who focused solely on the bottom line SVB would not have been so poorly managed and it certainly would not have crashed. Because, of course, white male executives are the epitome of excellence as opposed to all of those components of DEI, what with Blacks and Latinos and Asians men and women bringing their obvious lack of competence to the E-Suite and the board room.

Hawley need not apologize or retract his ignorant statement because he is saying what too many other Americans believe to be the case. No matter that white males were the senior managers of IBM when it turned down the opportunity to acquire Microsoft from a young Bill Gates and Paul Allen. No matter that white males were the senior managers when Lehman Brothers crashed, burned and died – the same being the case when the white male senior management of Kodak refused the opportunity to manufacture digital cameras.

The point is that no grouping of humans is particularly excellent or particularly inept because of race or gender or sexual choice. And the further point is that Hawley and his running partners are spectacularly ignorant in their efforts to resuscitate the dying ghost of white male supremacy.

 Beware of Professor Amy Wax

It turns out that the University of Pennsylvania has at least two blemishes on an otherwise stellar reputation as one of the finest institutions of higher education in the United States. The first is that one its alumni goes by the name of Donald J. Trump. Although it is fair to note that the Great Ghoul of the G.O.P. until long after graduation. But still…it counts.

A much more egregious flaw at the University of Pennsylvania is that a tenured professor by the name of Amy Wax continues to teach at the university’s excellent law school. Here are just a few quotes dredged from the slime of her statements both in class and in public:

“…on average, Blacks have lower cognitive ability than whites”

“…non-Western people feel a tremendous amount of resentment and shame”

“…. some non-Western countries are shitholes” (another UPenn alumnus used the exact same quote – guess who?

“women, on average, are less knowledgeable than men” (Obviously Professor Wax is note referring to herself in that comparative statement)

Speaking of television ads – “They never show Blacks the way they really are: a bunch of single moms with a bunch of guys who float in and out. Kids by different men.”

“American Blacks and people from non-Western countries feel shame for the ‘outsized achievements and contributions’ of Western people”

And finally…” when blacks are left entirely to their own devices, Western Civilization – any kind of civilization – disappears”

These are not the rantings of some neo-Nazi white supremacist holed up in a Posse Comitatus compound somewhere in Idaho. These are public and classroom statements from a tenured professor where students incur a cost of $100,772 annually in order to have the advantage being a graduate of a law school with such a fine reputation for education and intellectual excellence.

Somehow, this renegade from common sense and common decency is allowed to continue to teach and besmirch the reputation of UPenn Law School because she is tenured and through some twisted interpretation of the notion of academic freedom and free speech.

But there are limits on rights and privileges. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes noted that the right of freedom of speech does not allow a person to yell “fire” in a crowded theater.

Similarly, in an institution of higher learning some stunted notion of decency and at least a gossamer connection to the truth would preclude an instructor from stating that the genocide committed against the indigenous people of North America or the Jewish people of Europe were somehow good and necessary acts in efforts to make the world a better place.

Finally, how or why would students who will incur $300,000 in law school expenses want to be at an institution that permits someone like Amy Wax to teach under the pretext of free speech and the protection of tenure.

And finally, finally – who are the students who still enroll in classes taught by Amy Wax? Are they ok being in a classroom with someone who wanders through the sewers of hate and racism and who might spew some of that hate and racism at any moment?

Somebody is not getting their money’s worth. That’s for sure.

Point of View Columns

A History Lesson for Today’s Supreme Court

With the appearance of the 6-3 archconservative majority on the United States Supreme Court we are witnessing the “originalist” view of the United States Constitution being played out on the national stage. As this column is being written history and the system of laws in this country are being miscast and misconstrued in order to provide constitutional cover for the efforts at imposing minority rule on a nation that is resistant to such rule.

Consider that the literal definition of this “originalist” theory is that the framers of the Constitution were clear and intentional about every aspect of that document and that all concepts contained therein are to be interpreted literally. Another facet of the “originalist” theory can be summarized as saying that – if the right, mandate or concept is not literally written into the Constitution, then that right, mandate or concept cannot be constitutional.

Trying to understand this concept would test the logic and patience of a saint, but here goes. If this originalist theory were to be applied literally, we must begin by identifying some of the thousands of events and concepts that have changed America (and the world) since 1787 in no particular order:

  • Railroads
  • Electricity
  • The Louisiana Purchase
  • Equal Rights for White Women
  • Equal Rights for Black Women and Black Men
  • Climate Change
  • Nuclear Energy
  • Internet
  • Transgender Rights
  • Same Sex Marriage
  • Abortion Rights
  • Rights of the Differently Abled

Following this “originalist” approach to the Constitution to its (il)logical conclusions here are a few ways in which life would have been (and will be) different if this application of the Constitution prevails:

  • Since railroads did not exist in 1787 and federal funds were used to help finance the Transcontinental Railroad and many other rail lines – which fundamentally changed this nation – the use of the funds should have been ruled as unconstitutional and the growth of America as we know it would have been stunted for generations.
  • Since the application of electricity for commercial/industrial purposes was unknown in 1787 (with a nod to signee Benjamin Franklin) public utilities that provided the platforms for the electrification of America should have been ruled unconstitutional once again stunting the industrial and commercial growth of this nation.
  • In 1803, then President Thomas Jefferson had no constitutionally sanctioned right or explicit power to negotiate the purchase of North American land to which France had a spurious claim at best. If Jefferson adhered to the rigid interpretation of today’s Supreme Court (remember that Jefferson was one of the architects of the Constitution that is so revered by today’s Court) then there would be no constitutional basis for the Louisiana Purchase and therefore the states of Arkansas, Missouri and thirteen others would never have existed.
  • Since there was no mention of equal rights for white women, Black women or Black men in the Constitution, those rights do not have any constitutional basis in the present and relevant laws, rules and regulations should be repealed.
  • In 1787 there was no such thing as climate change. However, even though climate change is an undisputed scientific fact, the originalist approach would prevent any federal, state or local initiatives to curb climate change from being deemed to be constitutionally permissible.
  • Since the internet was not even almost a concept in 1787, government support and regulation of the internet should be deemed unconstitutional according to the originalist view and should cease immediately.
  • Certainly in 1787 there was not even a glimmer of a hint of a thought regarding transgender rights, same sex marriage or rights of the differently abled and therefore, so the originalist thinking goes, any support for the articulation or implementation of these rights is unconstitutional on its face.
  • Today’s Supreme Court has already ruled that since abortion rights were not specifically written into the Constitution, abortion rights are not constitutional. And we see how that is working out in real time.

The Constitution was ratified in 1788 and in 1791 there were ten amendments (the Bill of Rights) to codify rights that were part of the basic motivation for the revolution against Great Britain. Since then there have been only 17 amendments, some of them procedural (presidential term limits, protocols in the event of presidential incapacity, senators elected by popular vote), some of them farcical (Prohibition and the repeal of Prohibition) and three have had historical and institutional impact (13th, 14th and 15th amendments).

In other words, in 232 years there have not been many consequential amendments to the Constitution. It has endured as the basic governance document of this nation through interpretation and adaptation by Congress, presidents and Supreme Court justices. There is no mention of civil rights or Social Security or the United Nations in the Constitution, but the document has endured due to rational application of the document to the times.

The current Supreme Court majority sees the Constitution as some kind of H.G. Wells Time Machine to take this nation back to the 18th century. It is fool’s errand to be sure, but the totally unnecessary and uncalled for controversy and chaos occasioned by this misguided view of the Constitution and its history will be paid for many times over by every American woman, many and child.

A sad state of affairs that was never envisioned in 1787.

Point of View Columns

Exactly What is the Number?

If you live in the United States and care remotely what may happen to you or your family and friends, if you care about any or all of your fellow human being who live in this country, then you should be very concerned that, as of the end of February 2023 thousands American men, women and children were killed by gunfire.

Consider that the United States has the highest rate of death by gunfire of any country in the world except for Yemen – which just happens to be in the middle of a civil war. A half-way rational explanation might be that the United States is in the midst of an undeclared civil war except the only ideology that is seemingly worth dying for is the sanctity of owning a gun. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Despite the deluge of bloodshed that affects every city and every state in the nation, there remain an extremely powerful cohorts of adherents that gun ownership is a God given right embedded in the Constitution. And while no one should presume exclusive knowledge as to the will of God, literally nowhere can the absolute right to unlimited gun ownership be found in the Constitution.

This is the Second Amendment exactly as it was written and ratified in 1791:

A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

One need not be a devoted student of history to understand that the militia were the first and last line of defense of the colonies prior to and during the revolution (as well as the first line of offense in decimating the indigenous population) and there were concerns that the new national government might accumulate too much power. Hence the militia were considered to be a bulwark against overreach by the national government. And, by the way, the National Guard in each state is the institutional descendant of the militias.

And, by the way, you can read the Second Amendment backwards and forwards and it simply does not refer to gun ownership as an individual right – like free speech, or freedom from self-incrimination. But the gun ownership will never let facts, even facts set forth in the Constitution itself, get in the way.

Nevertheless, one has to believe that there is a limit to the carnage that can be considered acceptable. Obviously, we have not reached that number yet. Last year 20,138 Americans were killed by guns (suicides were not included). Consider the fact that 20,138 dead mothers, babies, elderly citizens, teenagers, neighbors and strangers was not enough to move the defenders of so-called gun rights.

Consider the fact that in 2022 20 little children were literally shot to little pieces by yet another madman with a gun. In any sane country, there would be a real call to action.

We need look no further than New Zealand when another madman with an automatic rifle killed fifty men, women and children in two mosques. Within weeks there was not only a ban on the sale of automatic weapons, there was also a ban on the ownership of such weapons. Last year there were 48 gun-related deaths in New Zealand. Even considering the difference in population, there is no way that 20,138 American deaths can be deemed acceptable.

It is clear that 20,138 dead Americans in one year is not the number that can serve as the basis for change of American gun laws. It is also clear that thousands dead women, children and men are not enough dead Americans to serve as the motivation for change.

The question is, what is the number?

Perhaps we should ask Florida governor Ron DeSantis – so far 2,724 Floridians have died in his state. This number is not enough for him to break of his romance with the gun lobby? Governor DeSantis, what is the number? What is the number of dead Floridians that would be too much for you?

Would you feel differently if a member of your family was in that number? Or would that be a sacrifice that you would be willing to make on the altar of the Second Amendment.

Perhaps we should ask Texas governor Greg Abbott – so far this year 3,513 Texas children, women and men have died from gunfire. The state is on the way to having almost 40,000 dead Texans before the end of the year. This is a number close to the entire American military death toll during the Vietnam War. Governor Abbott, what is the number?

What is the number of dead Texans that would get you to turn your back on the gun lobby and begin to actually protect the men, women and children that you have so far falsely sworn to protect?

And again, if one of those dead Texans had the last name Abbott would that make a difference. Or are you comfortable being a member of the clergy of The Church of the National Rifle Association?

And to all those adherents to some mystical and unlimited right to own guns, are you prepared to answer the question, what is the number?

If their answer if that there is no number of dead Americans that should warrant limitations on gun ownership, we begin to understand that the gun lobby and their adherents have entered into a murder-suicide pact with the American people.

And if that is truly the case, then the worst of times are yet to come.

And we should all be afraid.

Very afraid.

Point of View Columns

In Celebration of Black History Month 2023

 Last week I had the distinct honor of being the guest speaker at the Black History Month Celebration hosted by the employees of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

So here we go:

Please imagine if you will that we will time travel almost 53 years ago to an America that was still shuddering from the assassinations of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King and the Kennedy brothers – John and Robert – the cause of death was always an assassin’s bullet and always there was mystery, confusion and doubt in the aftermath, some of which lingers to this very day.

It was 53 years ago that tens of thousands of American military personnel along with millions of Vietnamese military personnel and civilians died in what was then one of the most brutal and horrific wars in recent history – the Nigerian civil war certainly being deserving of dishonorable mention.

It was 53 years ago that many American cities were still smoldering ruins after the insurrections following assassinations, police brutality and the daily recognition of rights being denied to Black people, even the right to hope.

And it was 53 years ago that I was a senior at Dartmouth College – an institution that was a critical building block in the institutional bastions that had supported, justified and rationalized racism, institutionalized white supremacy and codified the basic precepts of white male supremacy in this nation that had been built on stolen land and genocide.

In my almost four years at Dartmouth I was (and remain) proud of being part of a brotherhood of young Black men who navigated a path unknown to us or our forebearers. We were following the Drinking Gourd towards some semblance of justice and something other than inequality. And with no playbook, no guide, no griot -we changed that institution called Dartmouth College for good and forever.

And while that institution is far from being perfect, due to our belief in the possibility of change there are now more Black students, Black alumni, Black faculty, Black deans and administrators and Black alumni than could ever have been imagined 53 years ago.

We were too young to believe that there was such a thing as impossible. We had to learn to believe that as we grew older.

And so, with the assent of the Dartmouth College administration my fellow Black alumni of the Class of 1970 chose me to be the first Black person to speak at a Dartmouth College commencement in its 200-year history. And before I begin today’s remarks, I wish to share for you a few closing lines from that speech – please keep in mind that the year was 1970, the speaker was a 20 year old Black man – Richard (Law and Order) Nixon (he was about 4 years away from total disgrace and infamy), and George Wallace, though paralyzed by an assassin’s bullet still remained in the national consciousness and most of all, racism, both benign and overt, was very much a clear and present part of the American character.

That was the America in which I found myself, and at the close of my remarks I said this:

We have been told to believe in America, to believe that there was something deep down inside America that was good. And what has happened?

Black brothers die daily in the Indochina madness that is just another example of the sickness of America spilling out all over the world, and still we try to believe; Nixon tells Black people that he doesn’t give a damn about us, that he would rather put a white man on the moon than put food into a Black (or white) child’s stomach, and still we try to believe; the Congressional Record of the United States details the past plans for the construction and use of concentration camps and still we are supposed to believe.

The time has now come for us to believe in ourselves. The time has come to make ourselves free. Our stars of freedom still shine and our saints of righteousness do live. You only have to look around.

The stars are in the eyes of little Black babies and children who were born destined only for freedom, the saints of righteousness are the mothers and fathers, the brothers and sisters who have provided the strength for Blackness to survive in the face of the forces of evil seem to be everywhere.

The time is coming, the time has got to come, when freedom will be seen in our smiles, and our Blackness will mean freedom. We have to believe this, because this is the only reality left to us.

That is what we are about, that is what today means for us. To best sum up our feelings though, I would like to quote a poem written by Brother Herschel Johnson, of this class, as this poem speaks for the souls and spirits of all of us:

For you mothers with dirt-rough hands

For you with backs aching from bending

And flushing and scrubbing

For all you women on transit

You with brown bags under your arms

Bringing home the leavings of white folks

Bringing it to your children

For all you Black mothers and fathers

Who had to live with humility

And yet have had the pride to survive

For you Black mothers and fathers who raised up

Your men are now with you.

Thank you and may a beautiful Black peace always be with you.

And at the conclusion of my remarks I received a standing ovation from an overwhelming white commencement audience. Sometimes the truth does indeed prevail.

And now, 53 years later there has been progress and regress. We can cite the progress that has been made with the appearance of Black billionaires and millionaires, the election of a Black president of the United States and a Black vice president of the United State. We have seen progress with the election of Black mayors and governors, and we have seen progress in the number of Black CEO’s heading Fortune 500 corporations. More Black men and women are going to college and medical school and business school and law school beyond numbers that Booker T. Washington couldn’t comprehend in his wildest dreams.

And yet…and yet, more Black men and women suffer the burden of the New Jim Crow, populating American prisons and jails far out of proportion to our percentage of the national population. Our young men, and increasingly our young women, are killing each other in numbers that would make the Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan happy as a hog in a mudhole. We have seen our common language and shared culture degrade ourselves with violent, misogynistic self-hatred and a bizarre embrace of ignorance.

Of course, we also have to take to time to observe, assess and consider the present and the future because if we ignore the present and fail to consider the future, then we do so at our own peril.

It should be noted once more that the origins of Black History Month began with the work of the great Black historian G. Carter Woodson. The celebration began in February because the birthday of the great Frederick Douglass was in February. And I would like to share a quote by Brother Douglass:

There is no Negro problem. The problem is whether the American people have honesty enough, loyalty enough, honor enough, patriotism enough to live up to their constitution.

We have seen the birth and the growth of the Black Lives Matter movement and white corporate America has paid lip service to the concept – but institutional change has been elusive at best for Black America.

The end of the Trump presidency featured the first truly armed insurrection against the United States government since the Civil War. That the insurrection was led and planned by a sitting President of the United States should make us very concerned that the worst is yet to come.

Right now, Trump lies dormant like a fat rattlesnake in cool weather. But cold-blooded reptile that he is, the warmer the weather the more active he will become. He is already venomous and we would be fools to think that he will not strike again.

Meanwhile, by every indicium – family income, infant mortality, life expectancy, incarceration rates, poverty levels, education and income deficits – the narrative of this country is that no matter where we live, no matter how much money we make, no matter where we went to school – if you are a Black woman, man or child – we live in a different country than that of our white sisters and brothers.

Since the November 2016 election we have seen the deconstruction of American democracy moving from slow motion to warp speed. And even though American democracy has never been the saving grace of Black America that it should be, its demise simply cannot be a good thing. That is because the successor to American democracy could be very well be an authoritarian America that will certainly not be the friend of any Black woman, man or child.

Since the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965 – and I realize that many of you gathered today were not even born then and therefore have enjoyed a level of franchise entitlement that never existed for Black people before that year and…. may soon evaporate before the end of this decade.

We have seen the deconstruction of the Republican Party, at one point the party of Reconstruction- seemingly a million years ago- and is now the vehicle for a proto-conservative, authoritarian, neo-fascist, jackbooted and tattooed cadre of shock troops hell-bent on a reconstruction of America that will not resemble anything that has been seen in this country’s history.

We must understand that instead of worrying about how many times Joe Rogan says “nigger” we should be worrying about how many members of Congress and the Senate will no longer consider Black Americans as a legitimate part of their constituency and that we are not truly citizens of this country. And once that becomes the case, the remaining guard rails are coming down.

The American house is on fire. Like many housefires it may not be that noticeable at first – there might be some oily rags in the garage waiting for a moment of ignition or some old and moldy magazines smoldering in the attic and then – conflagration.

In the future we should never look back and say that we had no idea that it could get this bad. We have been warned and we have a choice. As Frederick Douglass said:

Power concedes nothing without demand

The question now is what do you demand? What do we demand?

We can regroup and reorient our focus towards resistance and resilience. We have to realize that our forebears didn’t even have shoes, but they marched to freedom – spiritually and literally.

Anything that we might consider to be freedom today is in jeopardy.

And if we just hope for better times, if we just go about our daily business with the assumption that things really cannot get that much worse, if we cross our fingers and refuse to imagine a more negative scenario than that in which we live, then we dishonor and disrespect everything that Black History Month is supposed to stand for:

-We will dishonor the enslaved mothers and fathers of our people who endured unspeakable horror, somehow holding on to the hope that if not their lives, the lives of their descendants would be better

-We will disregard the historic and epic achievements of Harriet Tubman and Nat Turner and Frederick Douglass on through to Fannie Lou Hamer, Harry T. Moore, Medgar Evers, Viola Liuzzo, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X.

-and we will disrespect the rich legacy of hope and expectation that has been our inheritance

What can we do? We can invest strategically in that aspect of the political process to which we still have access and demand of our elected officials that every moment of every hour of every day should witness their working with the realization that we are at an existential point in American history and our continued existence is not a given – we don’t have time for political labels or petty partisanship or anything else that does not aim for resistance and resilience

What can we do? We can focus on education, healthcare and community development as if our lives depend on it – because they do.

What can we do? We can immediately stop acting like business as usual is going to yield useful results.

What can we do?


We can get more serious about voter registration and, as importantly, voter education and, most importantly voter engagement – in your neighborhood and in your community.

We can learn from the opposition to play the long game – focus on the community boards, the school boards, the state legislatures – not just the bright shiny object called the presidency.

We can develop a real agenda that needs to be supported by candidates at every level – local, state and federal– healthcare, housing education, police/criminal justice reform, voting rights, abortion rights – what exactly do you want? You cannot complain that the system isn’t serving your needs if you don’t know what you want, and you don’t know what you need. And we need to know what we don’t know.

What can we do?

If we believe?



Point of View Columns

Views on Mississippi, DeSantis and Words From Negrodamus

Mississippi Goddamn

Over a half century ago the legendary Nina Simone wrote and sang a song entitled, “Mississippi Goddamn”. The lyrics quite simply exposed the classic characteristics of dysfunction and true horror that are the primary characteristics of the Sunflower State.

And here we are, over fifty years later, Nina Simone’s words still ring true…. consider:

In The Matter of Tasha Shelby

Tasha Shelby was 22 when she was arrested for the death of her stepson – approximately two years of age. She was found guilty, convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

Twenty years later the prosecution’s doctor changed his testimony stating that the child died from a seizure disorder and changed the death certificate. That should have changed everything. But it didn’t.

In the Mississippi system of justice Tasha Shelby is still in prison. Even the revelation that one of the jury members was revealed to be related to the deceased child did not change matters.

As you are reading this, Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves has refused to grant Tasha Shelby clemency.

And, in case you might be leaping to conclusions regarding the historic tradition of racism in Mississippi, Tasha Shelby is white.

Mississippi Goddamn in 2023

While Mississippi 36 per cent of the population of Mississippi is Black, Black residents of Mississippi are underrepresented in the state legislature due to demonic gerrymandering on steroids. And somehow, as this has taken place, the United States Justice Department has stood by, as silent as the Sphinx.

The latest result of this grits and corn pone version of apartheid, the Mississippi State Legislature is establishing a justice and police system that will override the existing systems in the majority Black city of Jackson. Incredibly, in 2023 the Black population of a major American city can be disenfranchised – and the sound of silence echoes throughout the land.

Mississippi Goddamn indeed.

DeSantis and Other Bullies

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis seems to believe that staying in attack mode will get him into the White House. And so, attacking Disney and Black History and transgender men and women makes sense to him. And obviously, enough people who in some leap of imagination that he should be President of the United States.

It will be interesting to see if there are enough people in this country who think that ideological combat is the best way for this country to go forward in the 21st century. The real danger is that with a certain level of non-participation it is possible that a 21st century demagogue could become president of the United States.

And if that is doesn’t seem possible – remember that Donald Trump was president of the United States.

Words from Negrodamus

There is a possibility that George Santos has an identical twin. If that is true the George Santos that lied his way into Congress may not be the George Santos who, in another dimension, lied his way into Baruch College and New York University without leaving a trace of his existence.

This is a strange story with no ending.

Point of View Columns

The United States of Gun – The Eternal American Story

In America these days, every day seems like Groundhog Day. Literally there is not a week that goes by when there is not another mass shooting somewhere in these United States. Sometimes the weapon of choice is an automatic rifle. Sometimes the weapon of choice is an upgraded automatic pistol. Sometimes the shooter is white. Sometimes the shooter is Black. Sometimes the shooter is Asian.

Every time there are dead Americans left to be mourned.

Since January 1, 2023 there have be 71 mass shootings in this country – mass shootings being defined as four or more people are shot or killed, not including the shooter. At this rate there will be over five hundred mass shootings in this country by New Year’s Eve. And the 12.31.23 body count is too awful to contemplate.

Yet, keep in mind that this is the new normal in this country. Somehow Americans have been anesthetized or desensitized so that, no matter how horrific the carnage, thoughts and prayers and balloons and flowers appear over the corpses – and the thoughts and prayers float off into the ether along with balloons and the flowers wilt and die and lie with the dead in their final resting places.

It is important for it to be understood that this daily carnage is not normal. And it has never been normal. In 1982 there was one mass shooting death. In 2000 there were 47 mass shooting deaths. Last year, in 2022, there were 647 mass shootings. Americans are killing each other at an unbelievable rate.

There are already more than enough reasons why. The proliferation of guns in this country is of epic proportions – there are approximately 330 million Americans, there are over 400 million guns. There are more guns per capita in this country than any other nation except Yemen – which just happens to be in the midst of a civil war.

There are other countries with high levels of gun ownership, Israel and Switzerland come to mind. But those countries have powerful restrictions on the possession of guns except in extremely limited circumstances and, in both of those nations your guns must be locked up.

It would appear that this country is careening towards a gun fueled apocalypse – all of it the result of the pure, naked and uncontrolled greed of gun manufacturers who are enabled by the National Rifle Association, legislators who will surely sell their souls for a Remington or Colt dollar, and the 2nd Amendment liars.

The last set of enablers are totally loathsome because the 2nd Amendment does not reference the rights of individuals to be armed, but rather militias (which were important during the American resistance to the British during the Revolutionary War) could not be disarmed by the new government that was in formation. But the 2nd Amendment liars and charlatans are impervious to the truth or to the fact that by their lies they are contributing to the unnecessary deaths of thousands of American men, women and children every year.

It would seem that this not-so-new normal is meant to be the American way of life. First graders have to be taught to duck and cover. Every parent who sends their child to school has to hope and pray that they come home alive.

Workers in virtually any pursuit have to learn to “Run, Hide or Fight”. And we all have to wonder if the next trip to the mall or to the supermarket or to church might be our last act on Earth.

Hopefully this gun insanity will come to an end.

Because right now hope for a happy ending is all that we have.

Point of View Columns

Being Black in America and Mixed Messages

The recent Super Bowl highlighted the fact that this game was the first time that two Black quarterbacks faced each other. It is also important to point out that during this past season ten out of 32 starting quarterbacks in the NFL were Black.

Meanwhile, in another part of the American universe 6 of the Fortune 500 CEO’s are Black.- another way of looking at this picture is that 30% of the quarter backs in the NFL are Black while barely one percent of the chief executive officers of the Fortune 500 are Black.

For decades the NFL and major college football programs would note place Black players in the quarterback position because — pick one – Blacks cannot think properly – Blacks cannot engage in useful executive decisions on the field — Blacks cannot successfully fulfill leadership positions — White players would never follow the lead of a Black quarterback.

The irony is that the ownership of the NFL has never been known as being progressive or inclusive. The ownership of the NFL has never been known for respecting the rights of non-whites or women. Indeed, the ownership of the NFL is still in the Stone Age when it comes to hiring Black head coaches.

But when we speak about the Stone Age, Corporate America is in the Paleozoic Era. The fact that only six Black people are considered to be worthy of being the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Meanwhile 5.6% of the Fortune 500 CEO’s are Asian American and 3.4% are Latino.

Keep in mind that during that at the beginning of this decade the white population in America is less than 60%. That percentage will never be larger. Within the next few decades America will no longer be a majority white nation.

Also it is important to note that the canard about Black men and women not being “qualified” to lead a Fortune 500 company is not even close to being true. During the past four decades thousands of Black men and women have graduated from the School of Business at Harvard, Stanford, New York University, Stanford – the list goes on. Yet, somehow, some way, in the first quarter of the 21st century, it is impossible for Fortune 500 companies to find a way that only one percent of these companies could find a Black man or Black woman to be the CEO.

In the wake of the Super Bowl, the irony as the bastion of racism that is the ownership of the NFL is comfortable with Black men holding what is arguably the most important position on the teams that they pay billions of dollars to own – the boards and shareholders of Fortune 500 companies cannot get comfortable with 1% of the Fortune 500 chief executive being Black.

It is a shame that here in the 21st century, Black people are still judged by their physical capabilities instead of their intellectual capabilities. It is reminiscent of the American traditions that go back the centuries of American traditions of racism and racist behavior.    

Point of View Columns

Lies at the Foot of the Statue of Liberty

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

The next time that Ron DeSantis or Greg Abbott or Marjorie Taylor Greene take an Anti-Immigrant Demagogue Holiday in New York, they might want to take a ferry ride to the Statue of Liberty and read the plaque at the base of the statue. While someone might have to help them with some of the words with which they are unfamiliar like “poor”, “wretched”, and “homeless”, one would have to wonder if the full meaning of the Statue of Liberty would seep into their consciousness.

If they took the time to think about it (“thinking” being a herculean effort for these three) they might realize that when it the statue was assembled and unveiled on October 28, 1886, New York City had already been the point of arrival for millions of immigrants from all over the world for over two hundred years. And while there has always been an anti-immigrant virus in the American bloodstream, the sheer number of immigrants who have become Americans should have eliminated that virus from the American bloodstream.

This Less Than Tremendous Trio might have given some thought to the fact that the only non-immigrant descendants in the United States are what’s left of the descendants of the indigenous peoples of North America, indigenous peoples who were the victims of calculated racial and cultural genocide until they were almost extinct – like the buffalo and the passenger pigeon.

It is clear that when Greene and Abbott and DeSantis are talking about stopping the flow of immigrants to this country they are not particularly concerned about the negative economic impact of immigration. Indeed, in states like Florida and Georgia and Texas, the homes of DeSantis, Greene and Abbott the agricultural sectors rely heavily on immigrant labor. Indeed, the history of the American economy reflects a hug reliance on immigrant labor – whether voluntary, enslaved or involuntary (e.g. the Chinese labor on the transcontinental railroad construction).

And while anti-immigration advocates don’t seem to have a problem with Ukrainian men, women and children coming to the United States by the thousands, there is a problem with Haitian, Venezuelan and Mexican men, women and children. Clearly the concern is not American sovereignty – many immigrants become citizens who are fulling committed to the American Way. Clearly the problem is not that immigrants will somehow drain this country of various public service resources – immigrants give as good as they get.

So, what exactly is the problem? Clearly blond and blue-eyed Ukrainians are welcomed with open arms provided with housing, healthcare and employment. Dark skinned Haitians are beaten with batons and trampled with horses at the U.S.-Mexican border, given one hundred dollars and flown back to the hellhole that is now Haiti – a hellhole for which America carries a heavy historical burden of culpability.

It would appear that the issue is about race – which is the case in America since before the United States even existed. And it can be no coincidence that the opponents of non-white immigration are also against reparations for the descendants of Black enslaved people, and they are also against the teaching of racial truths in American schools, colleges and universities.

Donald Trump was on to something when he revived Ronald Reagan’s Make America Great Again slogan (without attribution – but what else could we expect from a true grifter like Trump). The MAGA chant was not meant for Black Americans or Latinos or Asian Americans or the descendants of the indigenous peoples, all of us wondering exactly hen was America great for us?

But the not so subtle, barely subliminal message in Make America Great Again harks back to a time when “minority” concerns were not a priority for white America. There was a time when racial segregated communities and internment camps and reservations were part of the American Way, and it was a time when very few white Americans found any of this to anything more than regrettable, but necessary, ways to keep America great for its white majority.

Today Ron DeSantis, Greg Abbott and Marjorie Taylor Greene and Donald Trump are blowing dog whistles that all of us can hear.

We know now that when America is Great Again it will not be Great for indigenous people. Asian Americans, Latinos or Black Americans.

Maya Angelou once said, “when someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time”.

It is time for women and men of goodwill to believe and unite, while there is still time to Make America Great for the First Time.

Point of View Columns

History Belongs to No One

          It would seem that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis believes that history is an item that is subject to possession and favorable revision. DeSantis seems to believe that history belongs to whomever gets to decide on what is history and what is not. He clearly believes that history is a flexible narrative that relies solely on the narrator.

          That this is not true should be obvious. That DeSantis is lying should be apparent. Because history is a collection of facts regarding what has already happened. And just because someone wishes to be selective regarding which facts are presented, does not change the reality of history – and that reality can be obscured for only so long.

          Every country and every culture has its idealized version of itself – it has its myths and aspirational images of what should be. Of course, that is not history – here we are talking about myths and aspirational images.

          Every country and every culture also has an idealized vision of itself so it is understandable that uncomfortable truths are many times overlooked in the name of patriotism and the belief in ideals that have yet to be attained.

          Following up on that point of view we begin to understand how the myth of America collides with the reality of America. The myth of America begins with intrepid pioneers and “explorers” who “discovered” land on which millions of people had been living for thousands of years. Indeed their “discovery” must have been quite a surprise to the indigenous people on this continent – just as the ensuing mass genocide that almost wiped out the indigenous people within the span of a few hundred years was a surprise.

The myth of America also portrays rugged and sturdy white citizens who, with their labor and superior knowledge and technology were able to build a sturdy agrarian based economy which in turn served as the foundation of an industrial economy that became a wonder for the world to behold.

The uncomfortable truth is that without horrific race-based slavery that agrarian based economy would not have been so sturdy. And if race-based slavery was not such an incredibly important asset to the American economy in the 18th and 19th centuries, it is doubtful that New York City would have been the capital of finance which not only financed slavery and the slave trade, but also created the great wealth which financed the transcontinental American “expansion”.

It would appear that DeSantis and his supporters believe that if we believe, and more important teach, as though genocide and slavery were not inescapably crucial elements of the America that we know today, then that reality will evanesce. Which, of course, it will not.

And therein lies the problem for the DeSantis’ across America. Not telling the true story of America does not make the true story go away. Prioritizing the study of “Western Civilization” while minimizing the value and importance of Black history in America is a fool’s errand at best. And most importantly, history does not belong to DeSantis or anyone else. History is a set of facts to be discovered, studies and understood, but history belongs to no one.

And again, it is a fool’s errand to believe that white boys and girls who learn the truth about the history of this country will become ashamed to the point of debilitation, when in fact they will be inspired to aspire to a better America.

Finally, how sad it must be that, at the beginning of Black History Month we have someone like DeSantis trying to proclaim that he owns history and that he will determine what aspect of history should be taught.

Some please tell DeSantis that history belongs to no one…it never has and never will.

Point of View Columns

Madness in Memphis – Madness in America

A few days ago, five Black Memphis police officers decided that it was time to beat to death a young Black man by the name of Tyre Nichols. His offense was running away after a traffic stop – no other criminal activity was suspected at the time.

The recent tragedy in Memphis is part of a nationally historic tragedy involving Black men and women being killed by law enforcement for no apparent reason. This tradition goes back to the times when enslaved men and women who were fugitives from the horrors of the enslavement enclaves were captured, tortured and many times killed by the law enforcement personnel of the time.

This tradition continued after the demise of Reconstruction and the number of Black people killed “in the name of the law” rose exponentially. So much so that by the early part of the 20th century millions of Black men, women and children fled the South in what has been erroneously called a “migration” when in point of fact these millions of Black men, women and children were refugees from the institutionalized terror that was the American South.

In the modern error we witness the continued institutionalized murder of Black men and women – sometimes in the disparity that is so apparent in the Death Rows of America. Sometimes it is in the frequency of incidents like the ones that took the lives of Tyre Nichols, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Breanna Taylor, George Floyd and sadly, too many to name. Yet there is a tacit national acceptance that the regular murder of Black Americans by law enforcement is an unfortunate natural condition – like occasional tornadoes, wildfires or hurricanes.

There have been calls for better “training” of law enforcement officers – as if law enforcement training currently includes beating unarmed suspects to death, or kneeling on the neck of unarmed suspects until they die or shooting unarmed suspects in the back for no apparent reason.

Clearly the “training’ that is necessary involves the recognition by white America that Black men, women and children are human beings. It cannot be a coincidence that, despite the fact that Black Americans are the minority of the population, there are so few white Eric Garners, so few white Sandra Blands, so few white George Floyds.

It is not just law enforcement training. It is the cultural training which results in Black Americans being considered “the other” in the land of their birth. It is the cultural training in the homes, in the schools, in the churches, in the universities and in the media that normalizes racial disparities in everything from infant mortality rates to life expectancy and everything in between including incarceration, housing, education, medical care and career opportunities.

Sadly, for too many Americans who presumably are men and women of good will, these disparities are viewed as a part of the American way of life. And it is certain that every movement to Make America Great Again does not include Black people – because there has never been a time when America was great for Black people.

Perhaps there will be a time when America will also be Great for Black people, but it will only happen when this country comes out from under the canopy of false and pernicious myths and finally encompasses the reality that change in America will benefit all Americans – change need not be at the expense of white Americans.

But no change will certainly be at the expense of Black Americans.