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

All Guns, No Roses

While the G.O.Tea Party presidential circus careens across America spreading lies, misinformation and worn out comedy routines, black and brown America is killing itself. This is not a metaphorical observation. I mean it literally.

The latest New York City crime statistics indicate that even though 30% of the city’s population is African American, fully 60% of all homicide victims are black and 60% of the suspects in these crimes are black. If you add in members of the Hispanic community, fully 90% of all homicide victims in New York are black and Hispanic and 90% of the suspects are black and Hispanic.

Aside from reaffirming that the world is going crazy, these statistics tell a very interesting story. Most of these murders are committed with guns. It would be fair to say that there are too many guns that are too easily available.

But it is also about culture. For the past thirty years popular music, movies and literature have glorified violence, “gangster” ethos and disregard for human life. This cannot be disputed.

Consider the latest video game miscreation, “Call of Duty – Modern Warfare 3”, sold hundreds of thousands of games as soon as it was released. This game modernizes, romanticizes and glorifies warfare – basically the wholesale slaughter of the “enemy”. While the “enemy” might be mythical in the video game, an impressionable youngster who plays the game incessantly can easily translate the ethic and mindset to the streets on which he lives.

Meanwhile, for the past thirty years popular music and music videos have promoted, popularized and glorified violence – all in the name of “keeping it real”. Fifty Cents might be wearing a coat and tie now, but he made his money rapping about killing other people. The same is true for Jay-Z, BET and too many others.

The argument that these performers and entertainment networks are just “keeping it real” and “giving people what they want” is facile and baseless and virtually unworthy of serious consideration. The bodies of men, women and children pile up on the streets of New York and across this country while the beneficiaries retire to their mansions while riding in their Maybachs.

Meanwhile, the National Rifle Association and promoters of the “rights” of gun owners pervert the Constitution to somehow support the notion that everyone has the right to own as many automatic weapons as they can afford. States’ rights advocates in Virginia and South Carolina falsely claim that they have no responsibility for the carnage in Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York even as they profit from the sale of weapons that have only one purpose – the wholesale slaughter of other people.

The combination of this country’s gun culture and the gangster culture promoted in communities of color has produced a lethal cocktail. If the Ku Klux Klan or Posse Comitatus or the Tea Party was killing blacks and Latinos at the rate that blacks and Latinos are killing blacks and Latinos, national outrage would rock this country to its very foundation.

The NAACP and the Urban League and the Congressional Black Caucus would be demanding Congressional investigations and the intervention of the United Nations. If white people were killing people of color at the current levels of homicide being perpetrated by people of color it would be an international disgrace.

Somehow, a black man killing a black woman or a Latino boy killing a Latino girl does not provoke the same level of outrage and concern. The combination of the gun culture and the gangster culture has turned every inner city street into a potential killing zone. And when the bodies fall there are the obligatory candle light vigils and marches and then it’s back to business as usual.

The problem is that “business as usual” shields the men and women who are responsible for creating this toxic atmosphere from any responsibility. The men and women who are responsible for the blood and gore and death never touch the rotten fruits of their labor while vacationing in St. Bart’s or taking private jets to Paris.

The numbers simply don’t lie. “Business as usual” means death on the streets of the cities of America. And the purveyors of this lethal, toxic and poisonous culture are able to escape any blame or responsibility.

The problem is that “business as usual” means another black girl or Latino boy will die before the end of the week. The rap potentates and music producers and gun advocates sleep easily in their beds of luxury.

The victims of their vicious “business sleep” forever.

Point of View Columns

To Stop “Stop Snitching”

Our days swirl with news and commentaries from all over the world. Some seem to come directly from outer space without even slowing down while going through the ozone layer.

The midterm elections have a back to the future aspect as prospective voters ponder the advisability of rebuking the policies of President Obama and going back to the policies of the Republicans who promise not to be inept, profligate and deceptive……..anymore.

We have a true loon of a pastor in Florida threatening to burn Korans in protest of Lord knows what. The predictable uproar from the global Islamic community (which has been famously offended by cartoons and novels in the recent past) was actually drowned out by the stentorian tones of the White House and the Vatican condemning this literally inflammatory stunt.

And, not to be outdone, the likes of Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin predictably felt compelled to step into the lower Manhattan Islamic cultural center imbroglio. And that’s when we started to hear about analogies of Muslims to Nazis and comparing the building of the cultural center to the burning of Korans. And if your head is already spinning, get a supply of Dramamine for the next few months because it is going to be a bumpy ride.

The war in Afghanistan rages while the economy continues to be a bubbling brew of bad news with a touch of hope. There are issues relating to the environment and health and education that simply won’t wait until Congress comes to its senses and realizes that now is not only the time, it’s the only time.

It is, therefore, understandable that we may lose focus on the day to day events that are truly life and death in nature. Take, for instance, the now six year old slogan to “Stop Snitching” which has been in use in many urban communities. The slogan is meant to encourage witnesses to crimes to refuse to cooperate with law enforcement authorities, presumably so that the perpetrators of the crimes will not be caught. And this results in the perpetrators being free to commit more crimes against the friends, family and neighbors of the witnesses.

This mindless, self-destructive bit of inner city marketing has been co-opted and copied by suburban youths or all ethnicities and hues, in the name of “keeping it real”. And somehow, six years after “Stop Snitching” first was heard on some miscellaneous rap video, the slogan and its underlying theme continues to be part of the contemporary lexicon.

The leaders and members of racist and racialist organizations from the Knights of the White Magnolia to the Ku Klux Klan to Posse Comitatus have racked their pea-brains for years trying to come up with new and innovative ways to strike terror and fear into the hearts of black Americans. By torchlight and by fluorescent lamps they have hoped and wished and prayed for ways to bring dismay and hopelessness into black communities throughout this country.

But if they combined their double digit IQ’s and came up with their very best idea, the racists and racialists couldn’t come up with a better tool to implement their evil designs than “Don’t Snitch”. And the sad part is that this slogan was created by black people for black people. And the even sadder part is that since most black Americans are indeed law abiding citizens and not criminals, it is only the vicious and predatory element of the community that can benefit from the specious notion that cooperating with law enforcement to help catch a murderer or rapist or thief is “snitching” and therefore wrong.

We are well aware of depredations and lawlessness exhibited by too many police in too many communities. The perception and reality of police brutality and misconduct in minority communities remain stubborn challenges for local governments and law enforcement. But if you ask the mother or father of any young black boy about the greatest danger that their child faces on the streets of Nashville, Los Angeles, New York or any other urban location, they will tell you that it is not the police.

Errant, arrogant and indefensible police misconduct occurs on too many occasions. Violent, murderous, misogynistic and senseless violence is perpetrated by black Americans against black Americans every day. The single most frequent cause of death for a young black man is another young black man. If the Klan was killing black people at the annual rates achieved by other black people there would be protests and claims of genocide being practiced.

Because the actors in this sad tragedy are black people – killing other black people – there are no massive protests. Instead we get “Stop Snitching” which some people think of as a quaint and quirky bit of urban culture. Some people think is darkly humorous. And too many people take it seriously. The prosecutors and police in just about every urban center can recount case after case – for murder, rape, robbery, child molestation – that has to be abandoned because witnesses cannot be found or the witnesses refuse to testify.

There are so many challenges that exist in the cities of this country. Some are systemic in origin and many are being addressed by strong, bright and creative men and women who understand that challenges can be met and overcome. The total elimination and eradication of “Stop Snitching” would be another important step in the right direction.