Point of View Columns

The Triumph of the Law of Unintended Consequences

As we continue to have the feeling that we are in the cast of a bad sci-fi movie, this badly written script continues to take twists and turns that are barely moored to reality. We awaken to the news that the Republican governor of Ohio, taking his cue from the Republican governor of Georgia, has postponed its presidential primary vote.

Of course this is virtually meaningless to Republican voters, but it means a hell of a lot to Democrats, not only in Georgia and Ohio, but throughout the country. This was supposed to be the third Super Tuesday, the one that would virtually settle the Sanders or Biden question, if not once and for all at least pretty definitively.

Instead, there is even more concern that the 2020 electoral process is going to be fundamentally different than at any time in the history of this country and that includes elections that were held during the Civil War, the Great Depression and World War II. Clearly the Law of Unintended Consequences is hard at work.

We all need to keep in mind that a mere 17 days ago what had been the most competitive and diverse presidential primary race in the history of the republic morphed into a race between two elderly white men. And then the Biden-Sanders race has been elbowed into a barely lit corner of the national consciousness due to the coronavirus and the spectacular mismanagement of the ensuing pandemic by the Trump administration, starting with Donald (“I give myself a ten”) Trump.

And so, by tomorrow, these questions will be in the forefront of political observers before everyone rushes back for the latest news regarding the pandemic that some fear might kill two million Americans:

  1. Will Joe Biden seize the definitive lead as the likely Democratic candidate?
  2. If that is case will Bernie Sanders concede or will he follow a scorched earth path to Milwaukee thereby insuring a debacle that will warm the heart of Republicans from coast to coast?
  3. And finally, will there even be a convention in July if the coronavirus pandemic is still raging throughout the country, as many epidemiologists predict?
  4. And if there cannot be a convention in Milwaukee, then what?
  5. And last, but certainly not least, will Trump use his presidential powers during this declared State of National Emergency to impact the election. Delaying the November 3rd election, for example? And if that seems improbable please note that the Republican governors of Ohio and Florida have already given him the playbook.
  6. One hopes that the statement Joe Biden made in what may have been the last Democratic debate to the effect that he will choose a woman as his running mate portends the very real prospect of him choosing a Black woman. If he believes that an all-white ticket will inspire the Black base of the Democratic Party he should ask President Hillary Clinton how that worked out when she chose Tim Kaine in 2016 instead of a Black or Latino man.

It is more than ironic that the only woman ever to be a vice presidential candidate for a major national party was the blessedly and thankfully forgotten Sarah Palin. Hopefully Biden and the Democrats can do better than that.

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Point of View Columns

A View From the Maelstrom

Considering the existential importance of the 2020 presidential election an eerie quiet has settled over the Democratic campaigns. It may be due to the fact that Joe Biden has delivered everything but the coup de grace to Bernie Sanders’ candidacy and that now the only question will be whether Sanders can be less graceless than he was in 2016. But somehow it feels that there is something more.

Perhaps it is the fact that Sanders still has a puncher’s chance of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat if…….if Elizabeth Warren endorses him. If Joe Biden has a total meltdown in the debate on Sunday. If Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez gives an epic campaign speech that finally mobilizes the seemingly somnolent youth vote that Bernie Sanders swears is waiting to carry him to the nomination in Milwaukee. But somehow it feels as if there is something more.

And, of course there is. The fact that we are now living in a global pandemic caused by the coronavirus has cast a pall over everything from the NBA to upcoming nuptials. From Harvard to Harlem and from Rome to Singapore, there is fear in the air –everywhere.

And as bad as the threat of what a 21st century plague might look like, the stunning stupidity and inimitable ignorance of Donald Trump justifies all fears. His performance and that of his administration finally illustrates how incompetent this man is – and always has been.

There has always been a concern as to what would happen to this country, and this planet, if a real crisis occurred while Donald Trump was president. There have been crises of his own creation – see North Korea and the Mexican border as exhibits A & B. But now there is a real world disaster looming and Trump is being exposed for the hapless hack that he is.

Consider the fact that he falsely claimed that the coronavirus would just disappear miraculously. And the fact that even now, with millions of Americans at risk from the virus that is fully embedded in the United States, Trump seeks to deflect by referring the “Chinese” coronavirus and by banning flights from Europe which does nothing but enable the travel sector of the economy to crater just a bit more.

And, of course, it should be noted that since he has been in office the Trump administration has sought to reduce the budget of the Centers for Disease Control by 16% (this did not happen only because Congress restored those cuts in the final federal budget – but the fact that the cuts were even proposed tells you a lot about the priorities of one Donald J. Trump).

And now, the pure stench of Trump’s Panglossian incompetence has caused the economy to teeter on the brink of something worse than the crash of 2008 or the crash of 1987. The clear lack of basic intelligence that accompanies virtually every word that Trump spews gives reason for panic and fear not only across this country, but also around the world.

And all the while Biden and Sanders and the Democrats can comment on the obvious but there is not much that they can do except state the obvious, either of them would do a far better job in this situation than Trump on his best day. But right now that is thin gruel for the men and women and children who fear for their lives and for their future.

Senior citizens are now even lonelier than ever as no one can come visit them in nursing homes everywhere. Schools and colleges and universities and Disneyland are all closed because Trump doesn’t have the sense to listen to anyone who knows anything about how to deal with this pandemic.

And we can only hope and pray that the evangelists and 2nd Amendment zealots and conservative judge crusaders and the anti-abortion fanatics will not find out that they and their families are not immune from the pandemic disaster that is being artlessly orchestrated by their Chosen One.

Meanwhile Biden and Sanders are preparing to debate each other. And one can only hope that they can find a way to train their attacks on Trump instead of each other. A Septuagenarian Super Brawl on Sunday will only help Trump because it will serve to distract people from the hot, stinking mess that he has created.

And Trump has always been the master of distraction.

 

 

 

 

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Point of View Columns

Here Comes That Race Issue – Again

As we analyze the results of the second Super Tuesday in the past two weeks, there is are a few things that are clear. One is that the eventual Democratic nominee will either be Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden. Another point is also clear. And that is that, after over twenty five presidential aspirants going after the Democratic nomination presented the most diverse group of presidential candidates in the history of this country, one of two 78 year old white men will be the nominee.

Historians in the near future will write about how this could have happened. What policy analysts and the American people who will have to make this choice will need to know is…..what will Sanders or Biden and the Democratic Party do about it? Is the status quo all that will come out of “the most diverse group of presidential candidates in the history of this country” the final distilled, watered down result?

And aside from the mandate of “diversity”, what about the fact that it has been the will of Black voters that has given Joe Biden the boost that has made him the leading candidate? And what about the fact that Bernie Sanders is desperately seeking that Black vote in states like Michigan and Pennsylvania in his effort to become the nominee? And what about the fact that Black voters have been the most reliable component of the Democratic Party coalition for half a century?

And the question stands – what will Biden/Sanders do about it? What will the Democratic Party do about it?

One fairly obvious solution would be to seize the opportunity to make history in America – in a good way. Clearly there is a need for a woman to be the Vice Presidential candidate. Just as clearly there is a need for a Black person to be the Vice Presidential candidate. And just as clearly, the solution seems to be selecting a Black woman to be the Vice Presidential candidate.

There is no doubt that if Biden (or Sanders) makes that choice, he will not only be making history, he will also be making the smart choice. An energized base is key to a Democratic win – Trump’s base has been energized since November of 2016 and they show no signs of leaving their Good and Crazy Shepherd anytime soon.

Black voters have been at the foundation of the successful elections of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama and certainly would have elected Hillary Clinton if not for the defection and disaffection of too many white women voters. Now is the time for Biden/Sanders and the Democratic Party to make history and also find a way to win.

In 2016, instead of selecting Julian Castro and sealing her victory with the support of the Latino community. Instead she chose Tim Kaine, a white man who spoke Spanish very well. And we see how that turned out.

There are not many things that Trump does well. But he does do bold well (even if the things that he does are very, very bad). Biden/Sanders have a chance to be bold in a good way and hopefully the Democratic Party leadership will understand that being bold with a Black woman vice presidential candidate will be the first step in ending the reign of Donald Trump.

Which, after all, has to be the unalterable goal.

 

 

 

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Point of View Columns

The Day After Super Tuesday 2020

And now the cage match begins. Joe Biden ran the table yesterday, winning in so many states that all of a sudden he is starting to look like Joe Inevitable, except in Bernie Land. Bernie Sanders will have a formidable position in the race once the California returns come in, but with Biden winning literally all over the country, the prospect of a Sanders presidency has dimmed more than a little bit.

And then, of course, with Michael Bloomberg not only quitting the presidential race, but also announcing his support of Joe Biden, the idea of Biden being the Democratic nominee in Milwaukee in July is looking more and more realistic, which cannot be good news for Sanders. And Trump cannot be too happy either.

And, it would appear that someplace along the line, some reality was slipped into the coffee mugs of the various Democratic candidates and they suddenly realized that they were all a part of the Democratic Party Circular Firing Squad – perhaps someone at DNC headquarters read this column of mine from January 14th

And a word about Michael Bloomberg. There are a number of things that can be said about the former mayor of the City of New York, but one that is very true is that he is a pragmatic realist. He entered the presidential primaries because he was concerned that the Circular Firing Squad was going to leave Sanders as the last man standing. Standing until he became a sacrificial lamb at Trump’s altar.

Clearly, the rising Biden tide was going to make it virtually impossible for him to win the nomination, Bloomberg made up his mind to make what had to be a hard decision – but the right decision. By ending his campaign and supporting Biden, not only rhetorically but also with the mega dollars that only he can wield, the prospect of a Biden nomination becomes more real by the moment.

Questions remain, however. Will Sanders prioritize defeating Trump over advancing his revolution? Or will Sanders provide a 21st century illustration of what the word “Pyrrhic” means.

And in the near future we may all look back and realize the enormous role that Congressman Jim Clyburn played in the Biden imitation of Lazarus. Congressman Clyburn was probably always going to endorse Biden, if he was going to endorse anybody, but he held on that endorsement until the precise moment when it could do the most good for Biden, leaving the other candidates bereft of any chance to counter that endorsement.

The result was obviously not only a massive victory in South Carolina, but Clyburn also provided Biden with an unrebuttable boost going into Super Tuesday, and we see how that worked out. Clearly, when it comes to political timing Jim Clyburn may have no equal.

And one more thing, when Biden starts thinking about a running mate will he remember that the earliest iteration of potential Democratic nominees was the most diverse in the history of the party, and in the history of the nation. Now, we are soon to be left with two white men from which to choose. As one of those white men, Biden is in a position to insure that the first non-white Vice President will be elected on November 3rd.

Biden made history once as the Vice President to the first Black president in the history of the United States. Let’s see if he can do it again.

 

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Point of View Columns

On the Last Day of Black History Month – What Happened to Reparations?

Due to the observance of Leap Year, Black History Month got an extra day in 2020. As has been noted, Black History Month should serve as a foundation to educate all Americans, not just Black Americans, with respect to the history of Black people in this country. And certainly, any true history of Black America must begin with slavery and continue to this day with the very impact of slavery on this entire country in every aspect of these United States.

We live in a country which has such a bifurcated perspective on slavery and Black Americans that there are thousands of monuments commemorating the leaders of the traitorous rebellion to protect slavery and promote the eternal squalor of white supremacy. Somehow Black Americans are supposed to feel respected while these Confederate statutes and memorials stain the landscape of this nation, with this statuary sewage even seeping into the Arlington National Cemetery.

We live in a country where racial disparity has been abundantly clear – in health, in housing, in education, in life expectancy, in economic status and in incarceration rates – and none of these disparities are viewed as a national shame, and more importantly a national emergency. And that is where the Democratic presidential primary comes in – as a living, breathing illustration of the rank hypocrisy that pervades all sectors of the American socio-political universe when it comes to Black Americans.

If you go back in ancient history to early 2019, virtually every Democratic presidential candidate spoke out in favor of reparations for Black Americans. This was noteworthy in that this simply had never happened before, even though reparations was a key point of advocacy in the abolitionist movement and urged upon this nation by Frederick Douglass and grudgingly endorsed by Abraham Lincoln before his death.

Reparations for the formerly enslaved Black Americans would have meant so much in terms of providing a foundation for economic as well as civic freedom. Reparations would have extirpated slavery by the roots and torn the branches of white racism asunder. And, of course, that is why reparations was blocked by the self-proclaimed “president of white men”, Andrew Johnson – and by1876, reparations has withered away as a serious talking point in any consideration of the conditions and future of Black Americans.

And the late Congressman John Conyers kept the flickering flame of Black reparations alive with multiple resolutions calling for an exploration of a realistic implementation of the concept. And those resolutions were politely but firmly dropped – notably without the unified and non-negotiable support of the Congressional Black Caucus – until 2019.

That is when virtually every one of the candidates for the Democratic Party Circular firing squad clearly stated their support for reparations for Black Americans. This historic, game changing set of pronouncements was noted by political commentators and then…….

….and then things got serious and reparations for Black Americans went to the back of the American political bus. So much so that, as the South Carolina primary, taking place on the last day of Black History Month, in South Carolina where 60% of the voting Democrats are Black, there has not been anything resembling the whisper of a mention of reparations.

And once again, we see the divergence of stated American ideals and the reality of where Black Americans are placed in terms of relevance and respect in the American political spectrum.

And perhaps that is the most important lesson to be learned during Black History Month 2020.

 

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Point of View Columns

Nightmares Come True. Fairy Tales Don’t.

Four years ago, the unthinkable (and barely plausible) notion that Donald Trump would be elected President of the United States was considered a bad joke that would soon dissipate of its own accord. The idea of Trump as president was considered to be a nightmare for America that couldn’t possible come true – until it did. And now, the only nightmare worse than the election of Trump is the re-election of Trump for four more accursed years.

And now, after more than three years of the Nightmare Called Trump, there is a very real possibility that Trump will be re-elected. The Democrats seem to be operating on a strategy that is based on the fairy tale that sounds something like – after a series of internecine slash and burn primary campaigns with each candidate taking and giving body blows, all the losing candidates and their losing constituencies will forgive and forget all those body blows and come together in pure and eternal unity in support of the eventual Democratic Party candidate.

While we are living in the proof that nightmares do come true, the Democrats seem welded to the notion that this fairy tale of unity after hand to hand campaign combat will come true. Somehow, too many people are reading the dog-eared memoranda pulled out of the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign trash bin. Those would be the memoranda that spoke of the inevitability of a Clinton victory due to the obvious flaws and outrageous deficiencies of one Donald Trump. And we know how that worked out – ask for President Hillary Clinton at the White House switchboard and you will get the answer.

Democrats are writing the campaign themes for Trump’s reelection campaign – Sanders is a socialist – Buttigieg is out of his league – Bloomberg is a misogynistic sack of cash – Biden is too old – Klobuchar can’t beat an egg – Warren can’t inspire – and what the hell is Tom Steyer doing here, anyway? Somehow we are supposed to believe that at the conclusion of this rhetorical food fight, everyone is going to wipe off the spaghetti sauce from their faces and join in a chorus of “God Bless America” before going out to slay the Trump dragon.

A more likely scenario is that the supporters of Sanders will pull a reprise of their 2016 electoral temper tantrum and either stay home or vote for Trump. If Sanders is the nominee it will be quite a show watching Bloomberg and Biden and Warren and Buttigieg twist themselves like pretzels as they speak out in support of Sanders while video clips of their attacks on Sanders go viral courtesy of the Trump campaign and Fox News and the Russians.

The Democrats seem to be wishing on a star for those long ago halcyon days when hatchets were buried in the ground and not in the back of the victorious candidate and party took priority over the individual. Trump blew up the playbook for that scenario in 2016 and it is doubtful that those mythical times will return from the mists of the past.

Every attack by every Democrat on the other Democrats has already gone viral and they are all embedded in the cloud and can never be deleted. And all the while Trump is mangling yet another language – this time in India – and salivating at the thought of feasting on the remains of the Democratic primary battle.

It bears repeating….these are not ordinary times. These are times of extreme danger and jeopardy for the norms and institutions that have kept this country, as profoundly flawed as it is, functioning and operating in an orderly and relatively reliable fashion. Trump is the antithesis of order – he is Chaos with bad hair.

But Trump can win on November 3, 2020. Especially if the Democrats continue to believe in fairy tales and help make the American nightmare of another four years of Trump come true.

 

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When Evil is Less Than Evil

Like Ryan Newman, the Daytona 500 driver whose car crashed over the finish line upside down, almost killing Newman in the process, the Democratic Party is careening down some unmarked highway leading to Milwaukee in July. And perhaps, like Newman, the Democrats will emerge from this crash of a presidential selection process without burning and dying.

Which brings us to this seemingly novel and unknowable dilemma about whether, in selecting a president or any other office holder, voters should ever “settle” for the lesser of two evils. Seemingly, there is a presumption that somehow, somewhere, there is a gaggle of perfect candidates that obviate the need for choosing between evils.

And it is that angst that seems to be accompanying the discussion regarding a possible match up between Donald Trump and Michael Bloomberg in November of this year. The flaws, errors, faults and multiple disgraces that are Trump are so numerous that they would exhaust the storage space on most commercially available flash drives.

Michael Bloomberg, on the other hand, has allotted close to $10 billion dollars of his personal fortune to a vast multitude of good works ranging from global environmental protection to motorcycle helmets in Vietnam to gun control in the United States (it should be noted that in his lifetime Trump may have given away $10 of his personal fortune for some cause, but because he won’t release his tax records we may never know the truth). But, as is the case with Trump there are flaws, errors, faults and multiple disgraces that are part of the Bloomberg narrative.

And while these negatives could never approach the magnitude of the hot mess that is Trump, one cannot easily overlook the human wreckage occasioned by Bloomberg’s Stop and Frisk policy in New York City. The Bloomberg’s company has sealed up stories of sexual discrimination and gender abuse with ironclad nondisclosure agreements – but clearly there is something that Bloomberg would rather not disclose and it can’t be very good. One point should be kept in mind however – Bloomberg is not Trump.

Bloomberg’s misguided and stunningly ignorant explanation of the cause of the Great Recession being connected to the elimination of race-based redlining practices by banks is at the very least unbecoming an otherwise intelligent and well-informed man. At worst he is giving voice to racist tendencies which would give him something in common with many Americans. But, one point should be kept in mind – Bloomberg is not Trump.

The fact that Bloomberg is clearly prepared to spend a billion dollars in order to get elected and/or defeat Trump (he has committed resources to the eventual nominee, even if it is not him – which is something the other leading candidates should say – and soon). This colossal and brazen attempt to literally buy an election will transform this country’s electoral process – either paving the way for the eventual repeal of Citizens United or turning the White House into an Airbnb for billionaires. But, one point should be kept in mind – Bloomberg is not Trump.

There seems to be a growing tendency for there to be some kind of purity test in the Democratic Party in choosing the eventual presidential candidate. And so we are witness to all kinds of revelations which should derail the candidacy of:

  • Sanders – After all he isn’t even a Democrat and he voted against gun control measures and he has a barely discernible record when it comes to the issues and challenges facing Black America. But Sanders isn’t Trump.
  • Buttigieg – Every one of the five borough presidents in New York City presides over a larger government than Buttigieg in South Bend, Indiana. And Buttigieg wouldn’t know anything about issues facing Latinos or Black Americans unless someone hit in the head with a “Black Lives Matter” placard. But Buttigieg isn’t Trump.
  • Klobuchar – While Minneapolis-St. Paul is a major American city, it is difficult to conjure up an argument that would convince anyone that she is ready to tackle the issues facing a rapidly urbanizing America. And her record as a prosecutor certainly indicates some complicity in the race-based problems that are characteristic of the United States of Jail. But Klobuchar isn’t Trump.
  • Biden – His conduct of the Clarence Thomas hearings, his sponsorship of the Omnibus Crime Bill which established the foundation for the New Jim Crow are hardly shining stars on his record. But Biden isn’t Trump.
  • Warren – The idea that her record as a law school professor and a U.S. Senator with a plan for everything qualifies her to be President of the United States might be a stretch for many voters. But Warren isn’t Trump.
  • Bloomberg – Bloomberg isn’t Trump

Without belaboring the point any further, it is amazing that given the very clear and present danger that another four years of Trump as president represents, there are too many Democrats and independents concerning themselves with choosing the perfect candidate – when the only criteria worth considering is who is the best man or woman to beat Trump on November 3, 2020.

It is a dangerous myth that there are, or ever will be, perfect candidates. Those who bemoan having to make a choice between “the lesser of two evils” seem to forget that true evil occupies the White House right now and cleaning out the White House should be the only priority right now.

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Point of View Columns

Break Up the Democratic Circular Firing Squad

The Trump presidency is like a Grade Z horror movie where the monster never dies. Incredibly, while virtually cloaked in corruption and impeachment and creeping instability that resembles mental disability, Trump had the best week of his presidency last week. And somehow, the Democrats continue to act as if this is just another presidential election in yet another election cycle. Even though that is clearly not the case.

Consider that last week Trump was acquitted – not exonerated by the Kangaroo Senate that is in thrall to their Great God Trump. That faux exoneration should have done nothing to boost Trump’s standing. His State of the Union – game show – tantrum should have confirmed for all who care that this man is unfit for the office of President of the United States. And of course, his Friday Massacre, firing and demoting members of his administration who testified as to the truth regarding his outrageous misconduct, allowed Trump to channel his inner Caligula.

Yet, incredibly, by the end of last week Trump had the highest approval ratings since he became president. And just as incredibly, the Democrats managed to mangle the Iowa Caucus and move on to the New Hampshire primary sniping and heaving body shots at each other until it would seem that it doesn’t matter who gets the Democratic nomination in Milwaukee in July as the “winner” will just get to play a role in the remake of “Trump v. Hillary”.

The worst part of all this is that the various candidates seem to think that normal partisan warfare is alright since the worst thing that might happen is that a Democrat might not win – after all there’s always another election only four years away. After all, how bad could things get if the Democrats lose.

And it is that kind of oblivious mindless thinking that just might get Trump reelected. We already know that 47% of the supporters of Bernie Sanders are not committed to voting for any other Democrat for president. And we know that in 2016, with Sanders supporting Hillary Clinton with what amount to a wilted bouquet of fake enthusiasm, his supporters actually voted for Trump in such numbers that they were able move Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin into the Trump column. In other words, Sanders supporters helped elect Trump in 2016 and Sanders has never been held accountable for this outrageous betrayal.

Yet Sanders is the leading candidate, Buttigieg is right behind him, Warren is lagging, Biden seems to be waiting either for Godot or South Carolina which also seems to be Patrick’s, and Bloomberg has already launched a New Jack campaign strategy that might yet propel him to a nomination that will be a hollow victory at best if the circular firing squad can’t stop firing.

The damage that Trump has already done to international alliances, the environment, to probity in the White House, consumer affairs, education, immigration policy and the economy is not irreparable. But another four years of this man in the White House will transform this country for a generation. The new normal under Trump will look a lot like this country’s morals and policies and values of 100 years ago.

That the Democratic presidential candidates cannot seem to put aside their personal ambitions and aspirations is a damning commentary on all of them. There may not be a clear solution to limit the damage that is characteristic of clashing political campaigns, but if they would at least publicly agree, and reiterate at every possible opportunity, that the urgency of defeating Trump requires every single candidate to take a solemn oath that they will support the eventual nominee no matter who he or she might be.

And further – these candidates must urge their supporters to also take that oath, a pledge of allegiance to the cause of defeating Trump, if you will, so that November 3, 2020 will be a day of exultation and optimism and not what historians in the future will term the saddest day in American history.

At least let the Democratic Circular Firing Squad should start firing blanks and save all that ammunition for Trump and all of his enablers.

The American people deserve no less.

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Celebrating Black History Month with Truth

Black History Month began as a way to counter the awful lies, misconceptions and derogatory characterizations of Black Americans that has been part of the American tradition since 1619. There is no way that horrors of slavery, racism, discrimination, Jim Crow, Klan domestic terrorism, mass incarceration and lynching could be rationalized without America being able to characterize Black people as “less than” and “the other”.

When Carter G. Woodson wrote “The Miseducation of the Negro” in 1933 he intended to provide a basis for Black Americans to understand the true history of Black Americans as opposed to the mythic characterizations that served to justify the mistreatment and abuse suffered by so many. That knowledge, especially self-knowledge, is an essential aspect to liberation, and the study of the truth about Black history in America has always served to provide a foundation for rights movements from abolition to the ongoing struggle for civil rights to the Black Power movement to Black Lives Matter.

But there is still more educating that needs to be done. That is due to the fact that while the “miseducation” of Black people is an ongoing concern, the “miseducation” of all Americans has been, and continues to be, a matter of grave concern as well.

Too many Americans refuse to believe that absolute and unspeakable horrors of the institution of slavery and the complicity of most white Americans of that era in some aspect of this “peculiar institution”. Efforts to sanitize slavery tend to minimize the ongoing impact of two and half centuries of legal and absolute bondage followed by almost two centuries of residual oppression, racism and discrimination. The New York Time “1619” project is certainly a step in the right direction, but certainly not enough Americans have read it, and even fewer have absorbed its awful importance.

The “miseducation” of all Americans has resulted in the continued celebration of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and the other famed slave masters who were part of the group known as the Founding Fathers – as eight of the first ten Presidents were. The idea that for the first decades of its existence the elected leadership of this nation were slave masters is a stain on this country’s legacy that has yet to be acknowledged.

The “miseducation” of Americans has transformed the Civil War into a conflict that “ended slavery” when in fact abolition did not prevent the continuation of abuse, oppression and inhumane treatment of Black Americans. And that “miseducation” has perpetuated the obscene myth that the Confederate military leaders and it’s soldiers were “heroes” when in fact they were traitors and defenders of an evil institution – making them unworthy of praise much less being commemorated with statues and the memorializing of their names on universities, streets, towns and cities throughout this country.

Certainly this “miseducation” has persuaded too many people that the race-based disparities in these United States – income inequality, mass incarceration, higher infant mortality rates, lower life expectancy rates, higher incidents of police brutality, unequal access to education, housing and a range of professions and occupations – are not related to racism and race-based behavior in the public and private sectors.

Perhaps it is time for Black History Month to be about more than celebrating the accomplishment of Black Americans, past and present. Perhaps it is time for the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth to be recounted and taught – not only to Black Americans but to all Americans – so that there is a true understanding as to why we are where we are when it comes to matters of race and so that a reality-based path to a better day for all can finally be seen and understood.

That might be the best way to celebrate Black History Month this year and in the years to come.

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Kobe Bryant’s Parting Gifts

Kobe Bryant’s sudden death is as tragic as it is stunning as it is impossible to fully comprehend. As humans it is our nature to be unsatisfied in the face of loss. We want more time with our friend, our loved one or, in the case of Kobe Bryant, an iconic presence in our lives. However our friend, loved one or Kobe Bryant lived it can never be enough. And in moments of loss we can be so focused on wanting more that we don’t use those moments to consider gratitude for the gifts that the departed one brought to our lives.

Much has been written and will be written – much has been spoken and will be spoken – about the spectacular gifts that accompanied Kobe Bryant’s near mythical athletic achievements. In that context he entertained us, he thrilled us and he gave us respite from the shoals of everyday life as he permitted us to fly with him to unthinkable heights of the sport that he loved so much.

Indeed, much will be written and much will be spoken about Kobe Bryant the superstar basketball phenomenon. And it is right and just that his basketball persona should be one of the reasons why we feel his departure as such a deep loss. But Kobe Bryant’s gift to us is not one dimensional.

Because Kobe Bryant demonstrated with his life that excellence is worth striving for even if perfect excellence can never be achieved to the satisfaction of those who seek it. His life narrative demands respect if only because he was a man who truly embraced his passion unapologetically and stoked the fires of that passion with a commitment that was awesome to behold.

It is true that by playing professional basketball Kobe Bryant became a millionaire many times over. But one never got the sense that money was the driving force in his quest for excellence. He competed against some of the best basketball players of his time – but in his mind he competed against the best basketball player of his time by competing against himself.

And one of his parting gifts is his having been a living, breathing illustration of what the quest of excellence looks like. Because that quest is eternal, that quest is always present and that quest is never completed. And so, whether you are a doctor or a writer or a nurse or a student or a servant of the poor or a leader of your block association – any pursuit that we choose can be the reason to enter into a quest for excellence. After all, Kobe Bryant showed us all what that quest looks like in real time.

His other gift is coincidental with his death. Without intending to do so, Kobe Bryant’s death teaches us that every moment of every day of our lives is precious. There is no way that any of us can predict which day will be the last day of our lives. And so, even as we boldly plan for the future, clearly we should also understand that it is so very important to treat every day as the precious gift that it is.

Wasting time is, in reality, actually wasting life – and so there is no time to waste.

So as we mourn the death of Kobe Bryant we should pause to give thanks for his parting gifts and find the best ways to use those gifts as we live our own lives.

 

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