Point of View Columns

The Secret Danger of Living While Black

In just a week we have seen the madness that is the Trump Era played out for all the world to see. Multiple mail bombs sent to designated Trump “enemies” including two former presidents, Trump’s opponent in the last presidential campaign and a major media Trump critic sounds like a plot from some the fevered hate swamp in some mythical third world country. Instead it is the America that Trump promised to make great again. And this is what greatness looks like in Trump World.

And the day after 11 Jewish worshipers were shot down in a Pittsburgh synagogue, two innocent black citizens are shot dead in Kentucky by a self-avowed white supremacist. And as we view the news with trepidation and horror, we can be assured that as long as Donald Trump is president there is more to come. But while we are revolted by this new wave of domestic terror, we are distracted from an ongoing terror, the terror visited upon those who have discovered the all too prevalent danger of Living While Black.

It should be self-evident that the potentially fatal condition of Living While Black (or LWB) is a condition that only affects black Americans, there are a growing number of mutations that seem to be proliferating across the United States, creating an epidemic that is reminiscent of the 19th (or even the 18th) century. The news over the past few years has chronicled the progression of this malady:

  • HWB (Hooded While Black) – Trayvon Martin
  • SCWB (Selling Cigarettes While Black) – Eric Garner
  • BWB (Belligerent While Black) – Michael Brown

But now there are new iterations. Recent news reports from Detroit indicate that GWB (Gardening While Black) is a condition that can result from offended white women calling the police because they don’t appreciate the community garden on a vacant lot tended to by a black man by the name of Marc Peeples. In Dallas, SWB (Sleeping While Black) turned out to be a fatal condition for Botham Jean who was shot to death by a white policewoman who mistakenly entered her apartment thinking that it was hers. And then there was an outbreak of GHWB (Going Home While Black) in St. Louis when D’Arreion Toles was challenged by a white woman while trying to lawfully enter the building where his apartment was located.

Sad to say, these are not isolated events. Driving While Black (DWB) has been a common malady for many years. And all of these events can have life-threatening consequences depending upon the mood (and color) of the police officers responding to calls for assistance from these faux damsels in distress. And, sad to say, there has yet to be any consequences visited upon the instigators, even though false or baseless calls for police assistance constitute a criminal act in many jurisdictions across this country.

The point is that even with the madness of the mail bombings, synagogue massacres and white supremacist rampages, it is important to remember that there are other insidious, but just as repellent.

These are behaviors that endanger the lives of black Americans every day – behaviors that are no less vicious due to the lack of concern for the potential consequences. And it is so very sad that in this Trump Era, the standards for decent and humane conduct have been degraded to the point that Living While Black is fraught with dangers, dangers that every black American must risk every day.

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Point of View Columns

Clear Vision v. Impaired Vision

The past few weeks have offered a stark contrast between clear vision and impaired vision. This unlikely illustration began with the train wreck of a Meeting of the Megalomaniacs when Donald Trump and Kanye West met in the Oval Office to discuss Everything That Is Important to Trump and Ye. And a few days later a stunning, riveting and immediately historic film “The Hate You Give” was shown in theaters across the country and the truth of life in black America was on the wide screen once more.

First the White House Circus Maximus – for reasons best known to his fans and celebrity addicts, what Kanye West thinks and says seems to be important to some people. The art of his music is acquired taste for some and the answer to the meaning of life for others. However, there is no reason to believe that there is anything that has prepared him to be remotely aware or informed about the major issues of the day – domestic, international or intergalactic.

Yet, however unhinged from reality Kanye West may be, he turned out to be more than a match for Donald Trump who somehow thought that it would be a good idea to meet with a black celebrity so that he could fake-brag about his connection to, and concern for, black Americans. The only thing that was more amazing than Ye’s rant and rampage through the wilderness of his mind, was the fact that he was able to get Trump to shut up for more than ten minutes. If for only those brief moments of peace on earth Kanye West should get some kind of award.

The tragic aspect to this meeting is that while football legend Jim Brown sat in bemused silence while Trump and West went through this imaginary conversation, the White House sound machine tried to portray this as a serious meeting to discuss serious issues in the black community. And with that Trump has added further insult to the daily injuries that he is inflicting on the national black community. But due to their impaired vision of reality, Trump and Kanye really believe that their meeting was a matter of positive importance.

But speaking of vision, “The Hate You Give” has turned out to be one of those motion pictures that does more than entertain. The film is certainly entertaining but director George Tillman, Jr. goes much further than that. With a seriously outstanding cast of black and white actors, “The Hate” informs viewers about the tragic hypocrisy and the seemingly eternal chasm between the American dream and black America. The clear-eyed and unblinking vision of a country that discriminates, demeans, degrades and kills its citizens because of their race is simply undeniable.

There will be very few black viewers of “The Hate You Give” who will not relate to the experiences of the black characters. And there will be too few white viewers of “The Hate” (if they even take the time to skip “A Star is Born” and “The Wife” who will be able to relate to the experiences of the black or white characters. And it is that racial divide that tells us all how far this country has to go to even begin to be something like a truly United America.

But there is no doubt that as murky as the vision of the Trump-West summit might have been, the vision presented by “The Hate You Give” is that clear and undeniable.

And finally, George Tillman, Jr., screenwriter Audrey Wells and lead actress Amandla Stenberg must win Oscars for Best Director, Best Screenwriter and Best Actress if there is even a scintilla of justice to be had in the 2019 Academy Awards.

As always, we shall see.

 

 

 

 

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Point of View Columns

Battling for Tomorrow Today

By now there should be no doubt that the extreme conservative/regressive movement in this country has assumed the upper hand in all matters political in this country. The Supreme Court, the United States Congress and the Presidency are all in the hands of those who would turn back the hands of time. And there is a very good reason why the right wing of the right wing is in the ascendancy – it is because they have planned for the future and, for American regressives, the future is now.

It is hard to remember, and for some Americans of a certain age it is almost impossible to realize, that a few decades ago issues such a woman’s right to privacy, basic affirmative action measures to insure equity in education and in the work place were not on the verge of evaporating into the neoconservative atmosphere.

There was a time, not too long ago, when Republican and Democratic presidential administrations may have differed over the extent to which government should assist those Americans who needed assistance and certainly it was a settled fact that the environment – air, land and water – needed to be protected and preserved since they belong to everyone.

This is not an ode to days gone past. For there was a time not too long ago when the criminal justice system was hell bent on sending as many black and Latino men to prison hell. Mass incarceration was seen as the antidote to urban crime and the predicate to urban renewal which was the precursor of the national gentrification phenomenon. And there was a time not too long ago that invading countries from Iraq to Grenada to Panama to Afghanistan seemed like good ideas.

But while many were concerned with the big picture or just a few pixels of the little picture, there were men and women, many of them possessed of great wealth, who wished to impose their vision of America into the lives of all Americans, whether they were persuaded of that vision or not. And so, the right wing of the right wing focused on boring stuff like school board elections, and city council and state legislative elections.

While many watched presidential debates spellbound and as if they really mattered, the right wing of the right wing focused on local and state elections because ultimately that is how the Electoral College can be a tool for electing the unelectable (see George W. Bush and Donald J. Trump, for example). And of course, the right wing of the right wing focused on the Supreme Court of the United States where 5 to 6 judges with lifetime appointments can decide the future of a nation for decades to come.

There can only be a few progressives left who will argue that it is better to have a proto-conservative Congress and President in order to highlight the hypocrisy that pervades so much of chasm between American ideals and American reality. And, of course, it is that kind of thinking that left Hillary Clinton in a heap of electoral ashes and elevated Donald Trump into the fulfillment of all of his crazed megalomaniacal dreams.

As November 2018 elections approach it is going to be critical that progressives and proponents of positive change in America vote – certainly. But it is also important that these same progressives start battling for tomorrow, today. That means not only focusing on the bright shiny objects of a few high profile elections. It also means focusing on the long term journey to reclaim the high ground in American politics and to cease adopting an eternal defensive stance.

For example, if that means that if the Democrats retake the House of Representatives impeaching Brett Kavanaugh for perjury and possessed of a demeanor and temperament that makes him unfit for the position of Supreme Court justice, then that course of action should be pursued.

Trump and his enablers cannot spell “moderation” or “compromise” and progressives should finally recognize that we are in a battle for tomorrow today and that there is no longer any time left to find a middle ground with men and women who believe that their way is not only the right way, but that it is the only way.

One more march is not the answer. One more rally will not bring about change. Petitions will not change the mind of a single right wing ideologue. The only answer to this daytime nightmare is direct action, resistance and the focus on a long term vision.

And of these, the long term vision is most important.

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Point of View Columns

The Only Thing We Have to Fear is Fear

In 1933, in an effort to raise the spirits of an America that was in the seeming death spiral of the Great Depression, then President Franklin Roosevelt stated, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”. Having read “Fear”, Bob Woodward’s epic account of the chaos in the Trump White House it is now appropriate to say that we have to fear is fear.

There is no doubt that Donald Trump is an agent of chaos. It may also be true that Trump is a punishment visited upon America for all of its collective sins. What is undeniable is that his disruption and attempts at destruction of American institutions is more dangerous than all of his foul rhetoric and dismaying disregard for anything resembling the truth. To be clear – the man lies….all the time, every day, every time that he opens his mouth or tweets his latest institutional obscenity. But that aspect of the Trump terror is not what we should fear the most.

There is this prevailing notion that the possibly mythical “Blue Wave” will cleanse this nation of the Stain of Trump in the November 2018 midterm elections. And in any event, so the thinking goes, there is no way that Trump will be reelected in 2020 and his successor will right all of his wrongs and wash away the trash and garbage that characterizes his presidency.

That kind of thinking is reflective of the kind of distraction that has allowed Trump to wreak such horrific damage to the environment, social justice, immigration equity, foreign relations, criminal justice and healthcare. The notion that a new Congress or a new president will be able to right the Trump wrongs is a dangerous misperception and diminishes the understanding that the time to resist Trump and all that he stands for his today, every day – and at the rate Trump is going, that will not be enough.

Take the Environmental Protection Agency as an example. The EPA has, over the last 18 months embarked on a campaign to roll back, diminish or eliminate literally hundreds of rules and regulations that protect the air we breathe, the water we drink, the national park lands that we treasure and the health of millions of Americans. The sludge that is flowing into rivers, the mining that is taking place in former national parklands, the lead that is being consumed by children as you read these words, cannot be reversed by a new EPA director in another 18 months. The damages are real. The harm is in many ways irreversible for today’s victims. And all the while we watch in horror as Trump lurches from obscenity to tragedy to horror show.

Take the Department of Justice as another example. The successful efforts by the Session DOJ to increase incarceration penalties for various offenders means that as you are reading these words there are thousands upon thousands of Americans (and their families) whose lives are being ruined by such draconian measures. And a new President, a new Attorney General, a new Congress, will have an uphill battle to reverse these tragic consequences.

It is important to vote in November. It is important for Democrats, Progressives and any Americans who truly care about something more than tax cuts and bully talk to find a way to reclaim the federal government apparatus that has been hijacked by Trump and his feckless enablers.

But is it truly important to realize that whatever happens in November 2018 or November 2020 that the damage has already been done. The damage is real. And while that damage is reversible there will be no miracles as the planet is fresh out of magic wands.

Any commitment to change needs to be a commitment to a lifetime of change. That is only answer to the Fear that is Trump.

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Point of View Columns

The Beginning of the Beginning of the End

It is said that hope springs eternal. In the Time of Trump it is most certain that hope is the sustaining force that will ultimately prevail. Nevertheless, there are those who find hope in the most recent current events. The epic failure of even basic human character that Trump displayed in disrespecting John McCain – even in death, the publication of Robert Woodward’s revelation of the chaos that is the Trump White House and even the now famous Anonymous Op-ed in the New York Times all speak to the imminent demise of Donald Tinyhands. But is this just a matter of wishful thinking?

Taking these items in their totality, there is reason for the hopeless to have hoped that the nightmare that is Trump might finally be coming to an end. But this is where caution and clear thinking are most important. It is true that President Trump did all that he could to disrespect John McCain during his storied and legendary life. But even those who objected to and opposed his political points of view had to be offended when that serial draft dodger named Trump, said that this war hero prisoner of war was not a hero. Nevertheless that serial draft dodger was elected president with many of his supporters being veterans who otherwise honored McCain’s heroism.

When John McCain realized that he was terminally ill he planned his own funeral and memorial ceremonies and specifically refused to invite Donald Trump to participate. And then, once again acting in the role of Toddler-In-Chief, Trump only ordered American flags to be flown at half-staff for a day, finally relenting to have flags flown at half-staff for through McCain’s funeral and burial after a firestorm of criticism. But like a summer storm, that criticism has dissipated and moved over the horizon of memory.

And then advance copies of Fear, written by two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Woodward, appeared and the chaos and craziness that is the Trump White House made itself known to the general public – again. Trump called Woodward an “idiot” which will go down in history as the blackest pot calling any kind of a kettle black. Trump claimed that the contents of the book in which his most senior officials refer to him as an “idiot” and “retarded” were nothing but lies. But the melody that is in Fear sounds too familiar to be false.

And then “Anonymous” writes an Op-Ed column in the New York Times and reveals that everything in Fear and Fire and Fury and Unhinged and all the of the rest of the Trump tell-all books and basically confirms that the Trump White House would make Bedlam seem like a monastic retreat. And yet, through all of these “revelations” and “re-revelations” the support of the Trump base remains rock-solid and the so-called resistance remains dispersed and unfocused. Which leads one to believe that despite the fondest wishes of every one outside of the Trump base, if the presidential election were to be held of October 1, 2018, Donald Trump would be re-elected president? After all, how can nobody beat Trump?

And so, while many might hope and wish that recent events are the forerunner of the beginning of the beginning of the end of Trump, unless and until the resistance to Trump gets serious about ridding this nation of this unprecedented menace, the Trump Era is going to continue, much to the shame of this nation.

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Point of View Columns

Still in Search of Obama

It just may be true that every blessing is mixed. There is the joy and pleasure when something good and great happens. But there is also the remorse and dismay when that something good and great doesn’t last forever. And so it may be that when the history books are written decades from now the phenomenon known as Barack Obama may be viewed as a mixed blessing for black Americans in particular and for Americans of good will, whatever their hue. And if those far off history books turn out to be correct, it will be due to the memory of the remorse and dismay that were experienced by the many who embraced the Obama phenomenon.

Many historians and political observers agree that Barack Obama was an extraordinary president who came to office during extraordinary times. His successful leadership during the worst economic time since the Great Depression of the 20th century are Rushmore-worthy. His effort to fundamentally reform the delivery of health care in this country is a worthy legacy. The reform of the financial services industry just may have rescued this country from the self-inflicted wounds of Wall Street. Progressive movement regarding gender equality and gender preference and commitment to environmental salvation are all hallmarks of a remarkable presidency.

The list goes on. But the takeaway is that Barack Obama has a place in history for more than being the first black President of the United States. A lot more.

But historians from the future, visiting us now, may tell us that because Barack Obama was the first black President of the United States, and a progressive president at to boot, the cauldron of racism that still bubbles in too many communities without color boiled over, in the process merging and melting racist sentiments with anti-women sentiments, anti-gay sentiments, anti-regulation sentiments and run of the mill right wing of the right wing sentiments.

This amalgam fueled by the pure hatred of that Kenyan in the White House, solidified a bloc of Americans who not only hated Obama, but hated anything and everything that he supported. And that is one of the key reasons that we now have Donald Trump as president.

Granting that hindsight vision is invariably 20/20, the election of Donald Trump as president was at least probable, if not predictable. The meanness, the ignorance and the dedication to the impossible task of reconfiguring history are not surprising considering the whiplash of a back lash that affected too many Americans upon the election (and reelection of Barack Obama).

But what could not have been predicted is the virtually sphinx like silence of the now former President Obama as he witnesses the rampant and raging destruction of his legacy as well as the possibly irreversible harm that Trump is visiting upon all Americans. While it is true that tradition has dictated that former presidents are silent former presidents when it comes to criticizing their successors, it is clear that these are not traditional times – and Barack Obama is not a traditional ex-president.

While there is nothing in his personal history – both prior to and during his presidency – to indicate that former President Obama would be the vocal leader of resistance to epic systemic harm that is the hallmark of the Trump Era, it is now shocking that Barack Obama has been virtually silent when it comes to criticizing Trump and articulating all that is wrong with this demon of a president.

The people who are being harmed the most by Trump are the people who supported Barack Obama, marched for Barack Obama and waited in line for hours to vote for Barack Obama. The America that is in jeopardy of ruination is the America that Barack Obama swore to protect, and it is impossible to believe that that oath expired on January 20, 2017.

Yet Barack Obama maintains virtual silence – with the exception of a few tepid Delphic comments that are subject to the interpretation of whatever audience has paid to hear him speak. His most vocal, but still veiled comments that might have referred to Donald Trump were spoken in South Africa, 7000 miles away from the Trump crime scene.

It is simply not enough for the man who electrified a nation and a generation with the promise of Hope and Change to stand quietly on the sidelines working on library and Netflix production deal while this country and its people go to Hell in the Trump hand basket.

For better or for worse, Barack Obama’s voice is the only progressive voice that commands national attention and it is Barack Obama who can mobilize and energize the resistance that can turn the Trump tide.

It is time for Barack Obama to shed his cloak of invisibility and to renounce his vow of silence. The time is now – we can only hope that this is the change that we will see in the 44th President. Destiny led him to the presidency. Destiny now leads him to be a vocal ex-president.

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Point of View Columns

When a Sham Becomes a Shame

The only thing surprising about the Trump presidency is how consistently awful he is and how there seem to be no redeeming factors with which he can be associated. At times that there only redemptive feature of President Trump is that, no matter what, he cannot be president after January of 2025. And that is a poverty stricken gossamer thread of hope for anyone who care about this country and its people.

One would think that insulting the entire NATO alliance, tossing candy at German Chancellor Angela Merkel, endorsing British Prime Minister Theresa May’s political nemesis and walking in front of Queen Elizabeth would have been enough chaos for Hurricane Donald. But there was more, much more. Virtually fawning over his bromantic partner Vladimir Putin, Trump actually denigrated the American justice and intelligence communities while stating that America was at fault for the differences between Russia and the United States, managing to also turn the evidence-laden proof of Russian meddling in the 2016 election into just more “fake news”.

It will be up to historians in the future to fully comprehend the amount of damage that this man has caused in just 18 months of being president. Trade wars around the world, engaging in a futile pas de deux with North Korea, inhuman treatment of immigrants at the American border with Mexico and the demonization of the American news media (or were the shootings in the Annapolis newsroom too long ago for anyone to remember) – these are actions which have current repercussions. But it is the turmoil that is still incubating which is even more worrisome.

While Americans wake up every morning literally wondering what outrageous statement will spew from the White House, so much more is going on right below the surface. It is hard to pace with the termite-like attacks that the Trump Administration is pursuing, attacks that are just below the surface and will not become apparent until the edifice starts to fray, crack and crash.

As you are reading this, the Trump Department of Education and the Trump Department of Justice are looking to virtually outlaw affirmative action in higher education. If his minions are successful, and with the likely installment of Brett Kavanaugh insuring an iron conservative majority on the Supreme Court for the next 10-15 years they almost certainly will succeed, diversity will no longer be a reality on many college campuses – it will only be a word found in a dictionary in a library, if anyone can find a library.

Meanwhile departure of Scott Pruitt as Executive Director of the EPA was a cause for only momentary celebration for those of us who think that clear air and clean water are important. That is because his replacement, Andrew Wheeler, is a coal industry executive and destroying the environment is a key element of his professional resume.

The Trump/Sessions Department of Justice tries to make people think that reopening the Emmett Till case is an example of the shell game also known as benevolent ivory justice. One can only assume that we should forget Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown and all of the other black men and women who have been “lawfully” lynched by the system that has reneged on a promise of “just for all”.

The point, of course, is that while we continue to be focused on the Trump Clown Show, Trump and his minions are engaged in the serious and serial and systematic dismantling of so much of the infrastructure of hope and promise (as imperfect as it has been) that has made this country worth saving. And every day that Donald Trump is president is another day that hope and promise fade just a little bit more.

And that may be The True Tragedy That is Trump.

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