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Posts Tagged ‘society’

Many conservatives, especially the more conservative and extremists among conservatives, like to think of themselves as lone wolves.  They decry the “nanny state” and proudly state that they can stand on their own feet.  Often they claim that they do not need government or society or civilization since they know how to survive on their own.

So, I thought it might be enlightening to find out about lone wolves in real life, and then see if that sheds light on the more extreme claims of these conservatives.

A lone wolf in the American mythos is a noble beast, strong and capable of forging without others. However, the reality of the lone wolf is substantially different than the myth – just as is these conservatives’ claims.

Wolves are pack animals, social animals. It is part of how they survive. A lone wolf is typically one that is pushed out by the dominant wolves of the pack. Usually they are young, just reaching sexual maturity between 1 and 2 years of age. Often they are the runts, the sick ones.  Sometimes they are older wolves who can no longer fend with the pack and keep up with it.

Either way, this is not usually some noble decision on the part of the individual wolf, but a role forced upon it.  Not quite the image these conservatives have in mind.

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Further, these lone wolves usually have a hard time surviving without the help and protection of the pack. They typically forage for hundreds of miles trying to avoid the other wolf packs’ territory, or try to haunt the edges of those boundaries. They limit their howling so as not to attract the attention of the wolf packs.

Again, not quite the image these conservatives have in mind.

Lone wolves have more difficulties in finding and getting food, especially the larger game that the pack usually attacks together, a pack that is no longer his or hers. They have to move carefully for fear of attack. And, they have a harder time finding a mate. And, even when they do, isolated from the pack as they are, their lives are usually shorter and harder.

Which is why, sometimes, these lone wolves manage to find themselves a new pack to become a part of.

I find this difference between the myth and the reality of the lone wolf of interest because it so closely parallels the failure in thinking of these conservatives who espouse this ideal.  This idea that they can do it alone and stand tall and brave, and do not need government nor society nor civilization.

Of course, doing so involves driving off in a vehicle whose reliability and safety has been created by government and built by a factory, which involves a civilization.  That’s not even considering the gasoline used to fuel the vehicle, made by companies subsidized by government and whose interests are protected by government.  And the business that creates this gas does so through technology, much of which was created by government funded science, and all of it dependent up on civilization.

So, no driving off in the sunset then for these people if they truly wish to stand on their own.

And no walking on the roads or sidewalks since they too are the work of governments both large and small.

No groceries either, no food whose safety is protected by government agencies, and who had a role in the farmers growing of the food and the safe transport of their efforts to grocery stores across the US.  Hunt and fish and grow your own lone wolf.  Even in the depths of winter.

Oh, the gun that you are using – give it up. It was produced by factories, as was the gunpowder used in the bullets, and the bullets themselves.  Factories are civilization.  The ability of factories to safely produce this product is the courtesy of government. As is the safe transportation of all goods across state lines and from overseas to here.  Take up knapping if you really want to stand on your own without the help of society or civilization.

Oh again,, and speaking of safety, give up thinking you are a fierce lone wolf who can take on all people with the thirty or forty guns strapped to your waist and back and the dozen of knives strapped to your legs. Since you are now a lone wolf society no longer protects you and your family. Neither law enforcement nor the judicial system.

Yes, you may well be able take out a few. But consider this, once the word goes out that even if the police were standing next to you, they would do nothing to stop them from attacking, from raping, from robbing you and yours. No court will find them guilty, no jail time short or long for them.  Anyone can do anything to you and your family with no consequences to them from society and government, cause, you are, after all, the Lone Wolf.

And we haven’t even discussed medicine, and doctors.

Now this lovely myth no longer sounds so lovely.

The reality is that our species survived due to two things – our high intelligence, and our high socialization. Without either our species fails. We can argue about the best way to create a society, but to think that we can survive and thrive on our own without society is ignorant at best. And when used to promote policies, it a dangerous ignorance impacting all of society and our survival.

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In regards to School Resource Officer Fields and his throwing a 16 year old female student out of her chair, I have seen several responses defending Officer Field and saying that those that condemn his actions are promoting the dissolution of our society. Their basic reasoning is that by allowing this teenage girl to get away with disobeying authority figures we are promoting disrespect.

If you are applauding the termination of Officer Fields and defending that brat, go ahead and pat yourself on the back. It’s this mindset that’s breeding disrespectful punks and causing them to get shot. Stop making kids think they are above the law and authority. You’re not doing them or society any favors.

But my question to them would be how is respect best earned? Is it through violence and brute strength? That seems to be the message from those defending the officer. Somehow I doubt that most of the students in that class respect that officer or the authorities due to this. Instead, they learned fear and caution. And possibly anger towards police and authority.

I note that in the CNN link I provided above several of the students refer to Officer Fields as Officer Slam. And that they had their cellphones out because they knew when he came in that it was going to go bad. From the above linked CNN article:

Kenny said she and other classmates had their cell phones recording because of the officer’s reputation.
“When he came in the classroom, I immediately told my classmates, ‘Get your phones out, get your phones out. I think this is going to go downhill.’ And it did.”
Her attorney, Simone Martin, said she’s been told “by a number of the students that he is referred to as Officer Slam as opposed to Officer Fields.

This does not sound like respect. The unnecessary use of force does not generate respect. It generates the opposite, disrespect. It generates rebellion. It generates fear. Officer’s Field’s actions as well as that of the teacher and principle are the actions which are generating the disrespect for authority and distrust of it.

Or perhaps we should say instead, more accurately,  that there are variants of respect.

There is a type of respect generated by brute force and power. This has a legitimate place in any and all societies. However, its use in a democracy, especially one recognizing individual rights, should be limited. This is particularly true since such a basis for respect generates its own counter-forces. Power plays generate resentment and fear. That in turn tends to generate behaviors counter to it; rebellion. To me this is a negative way to generate respect, and one thing my experience as well as my education teaches me is that negative ways of generating anything tend to be less effective and have more unwanted side effects than more positive ways.

Which brings up to other ways to generate respect. Things such as showing good judgement, listening, showing compassion. This way of generating respect, this type of respect, is usually more effective, longer lasting, and has less unwanted side effects than that of the brute force variety.

As I said earlier there are times for the use of force to generate respect. But this classroom and this student was not one of those. Keep in mind here that this is a classroom, these are teenagers and not drug lords, not convicted hardened criminals.

What would have generated a great deal more respect was if the teacher had not called the officer at all. Instead, she should have taken the rest of the class elsewhere and had the principle talk with the girl.  Possibly a counselor too since this girl’s mother had very recently died and she was now living in foster care. This would have put the onus on the girl and how her actions affected the rest of the class, ie they had to move. It would have put the focus on providing help for the girl. It would have generated respect for resolving the issue without resort to brute force and violence. It would have shown concern for both the class as a whole and for the individual student.  It would display of showing the good judgment of knowing when to confront and push and when not to.

“Sounds nice” I hear the brute force approach people say, but it will not work. However, it does. My wife during the years when she was teaching was a master at doing this and was recognized by both the school, her students, and their parents as being an outstanding teacher. The action I outlined above, removing the class and dealing with the individual student by herself, was something I heard first from her. Then I noted that Officer Field’s boss said essentially he same thing.

For an excellent example of a police officer commanding respect not through brute force but by finding ways to deescalate the situation and providing a positive example. Here is an example of how officers should handle issues like this that do deserve and get respect.

The situation, police had been called in to break up two groups of teens who were fighting. When told to leave one of the teens instead went up to the officer and started playing Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae) on her phone.

Faced with an unruly and defiant teen this officer decided that instead of direct confrontation a la Officer Fields something else was called for. She understood she was dealing with a teenager.

“The police officer, rather than taking her down like a drug kingpin caught in a sting, laughed at Aaliyah’s challenge to her authority, warned her that she had better moves and started dancing, clunky cop shoes, turtle-shell body armor and all.”

The reaction? According to the hard ass crowd, nothing good could result in such molly coddling tactics. After all, this officer had allowed this teen to flout authority and ignore her orders. Good gads, that teen must have lost all respect for officers and authority then. However, the reality is far different.

““I never expected cops to be that cool,” Aaliyah said. “There are some good cops.””
This represents a change from her views of cops before this, a view that cops were cruel. A view that is only reinforced by the actions of such officers as Officer Field, who is definitely of the hard ass brute force approach.

Had the teacher realized this and handled the situation on her own or with the principle instead of escalating it by calling in the officer respect could have been earned. Had Officer Fields realized this when he first came in and instead of escalating worked to de-escalate the situation he too would have earned respect. Instead, he earned his termination of employment.

ADDENDUM
I just saw the news that 100 students of Spring Valley High School staged a walk out in support of Officer Fields. To those who would bring this up as evidence against my thoughts here let me just say – that’s nice.

First off, I would point out that Spring Valley High School is a large school. There are 479 students in the 2015 graduating class alone. Its total student population is well over 1,000 students.

I would further point out that some students engage in protests just because they think it cool or a way to get out of school for a while; not because they actually agree.

Finally, opinions and ideas are not universally shared. Never have been and never will be. The fact that you can point to some students supporting Fields only proves this truism, nothing more.

What would impress me would be a scientific poll of the students and teachers on their reaction to this incident. Further, I would love to see something that provided a third choice between doing nothing and Officer Field’s actions. An option such as I outlined above. I have no doubt that when presented with that real and viable option, the great majority of people would have more respect for those who took that option – an option that respected both the other students in the class and the individual needs of a student.

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In this blog I will focus on what should be done to strengthen the bonds between our law enforcement agencies and the community, especially the black community.

First – All Lives Matter is not helpful.

Too many people take offense at the slogan “Black Lives Matter”. They view it as saying that only black lives matter, but that is not the truth. Instead, it is saying that black lives matter TOO.

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Blacks are very well aware that they are jailed more often than whites, that their sentences for the same exact offense is longer than a whites, that a black person who kills a white person is much more likely to get the death penalty than is a white person who kills a black. In short, they are aware of the inequities of the system. Black Lives Matter is a cry for equal treatment. Their lives matter too.

Which makes the All Lives Matter meme nothing more than a way to ignore the fact that blacks are not treated equally. By trying to treat Black Lives Matter as a cry for blacks wanting special treatment instead of being the cry for equal treatment that it is, people can ignore the racism and bias that contributes to the problems within the black community, and to the injustices still being perpetuated on so many blacks. This link provides further explanation of this.

Bottom line, the first step is to recognize how our society with its institutionalized and unconscious biases has helped to create this mistrust and problem. Without that, nothing changes.

Another part of the solution is the black community working to improve their own culture and community. What gets ignored though by most whites, especially those who are conservative, is that blacks already are working on this. My blog “On the Irritating Wrongness of the Black on Black Violence Counter-argument” goes over some of this.

Along with this is the white community, especially conservatives, recognizing their efforts instead of ignoring them and saying that the blacks should be working to improve their community. Not recognizing this and pretending or being ignorant of it is an insult to those blacks who are improving their culture.

A bigger problem than mobilizing blacks to improve their own community (since that is already happening) is the white conservatives’ almost purposeful lack of awareness of the role that institutional racism and unconscious bias plays in these problems. Without that sort of awareness, the mistrust that exists will not disappear and the inequalities and injustices committed by our justice system will continue.

The Police and Justice system overall needs to become more aware of their institutional racism and work on ways to change their organization, procedures, and policies in order to overcome them. Body cameras for police are a good start. However, it is not enough. Communicating quickly, openly, and honestly with the community when bad things happen is essential. Creating an outside panel to review shootings, especially of unarmed civilians would be a good move. Creating, reviewing and improving upon policies on when to use deadly force and on how to best to de-escalate tense situations.

Also, allowing the black community and others to drive with and spend time with on duty police so that they can better understand the pressures and challenges faced by police.

Finally, becoming aware and working to overcome the unconscious biases that still plague our society – from jobs to education to our judicial system. There are several ideas for how to accomplish this that are possible, some of which have been shown to be effective. For example, within our judicial system it has been shown that bringing up and going over how unconscious biases work and can influence decisions with jurors helps to offset such biases’ effects.

Building trust between a community and the police is a necessity for a safe and peaceful society. I believe we had one large movement in the 1950s and 60s, the civil rights movement, which overcame the more obvious forms of racism such as Jim Crow laws. It was a time of great unrest, as most such large advances are. It is now time to take on the less obvious but still destructive forms of institutional and unconscious racism and bias. I hope that the unrest that we are experiencing now is the sign that we are finally doing so.

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BLACK LIVES MATTER HERE

Now, although the number of law enforcement officers killed has not increased, the tensions between the police and the public in general and the black community in particular has increased. The public is very aware of when police kill unarmed citizens, and most especially aware of it when that unarmed citizen is black. In general, I think this is good because it provides an impetus for some needed change. And change is an uncomfortable process. And a chancy one too.

Many conservative groups try to blame this all on the black community – they do not work at educating themselves, their family groups are a shambles, etc. That is part of the problem, but only part, something that becomes apparent when you ask why so many black communities are experiencing these problems. Is it because they are black and so are not able to form communities that function as well as whites do? Cannot persevere in their education, cannot form good and loving families, and cannot make good economic decisions as whites can?

Unless you want to say yes to those questions, and I really, really hope you do not, then there must be a cause for the current state of many black communities. And without knowing that cause, the efforts of blacks to correct and improve their community will be limited at best.

This is something I have already dealt with somewhat in a previous blog, “Of Ferguson and Charleston, Of Confederate Flags and N—–…and Conservatives. Or Kum Ba Yah Bullshit”.

There are two related causes of the current state of many black communities. The first is historical. Black culture today is not the result of a virgin birth or something that appeared fully formed from the foam but instead had many different influences and forces shaping it.

Its base was formed from the brutality that was slavery and then modified by the chains of Jim Crow laws, laws which lasted well into the 1960s (and well within the memory of many still living today). It was shaped by the actions of groups such as the KKK, which at the turn of the 20th century numbered in the millions and had a strong political presence. It was formed in reaction to the numerous lynchings that occurred instead of justice, and to the riots against blacks that at times even destroyed whole black communities.

Black communities were formed and shaped in reaction to the racist policies and programs of the government. Practices such as redlining which from 1934 – 1962 kept blacks from getting any of the 120 billion dollars handed out by the government for home loans. This in turn forced segregation by forcing blacks to live in ghettos, unable to afford the better housing and land. This then rippled through time and affects today’s black communities since blacks, unlike the whites who could and did receive these loans, did not have the property that they could pass on to their children and use as a basis for creating wealth for themselves and their family.

One of the ripples of this policy was education. Schools are funded by property taxes. Since the majority of blacks could not afford to live in good homes and could not get the loans to attain good homes, they did not have the tax base to create good schools. Combine this with the effects of segregation and you have the basis for the educational disparities we see today. Which then, in turn, lead to fewer opportunities for better jobs. A fine example of the effects of institutional racism.

Or consider the way blacks are portrayed in the media – TV, radio, newspapers, magazines. White skin and standards are held up as beautiful, blacks are not. Blacks are shown as criminals much more often than they are in reality, while whites are shown as criminals much less than they are in real life. While this has improved over time, it is still present even today.

Today, while we have gotten rid of most of the more overt signs and accruements of racism, there are the unconscious biases and prejudices, ones people do not even realize they are acting on. These unconscious biases and prejudices are the reasons why a resume with a white sounding name on it is more likely to get an interview than the same resume is with a black person’s name on it. Or why whites will complain more readily about the noise a black group is making than they will of a white group. Or why whites are more threatened by a black person than a white, which has interesting effects in the courtroom when white jurors are deciding on how threatened a police officer or civilian should have felt. And the list goes on.

To tie this in more directly to the current tensions between police and black communities, blacks know that they have been the victim of more stops and harassment from police than whites have. Driving while black has a great deal of truth to it. In fact, take a look at the Department of Justice’s report on Ferguson’s Police Department practices for an example of this.

Ferguson’s law enforcement practices are shaped by the City’s focus on revenue rather than by public safety needs. This emphasis on revenue has compromised the institutional character of Ferguson’s police department, contributing to a pattern of unconstitutional policing, and has also shaped its municipal court, leading to procedures that raise due process concerns and inflict unnecessary harm on members of the Ferguson community. Further, Ferguson’s police and municipal court practices both reflect and exacerbate existing racial bias, including racial stereotypes. Ferguson’s own data establish clear racial disparities that adversely impact African Americans. The evidence shows that discriminatory intent is part of the reason for these disparities. Over time, Ferguson’s police and municipal court practices have sown deep mistrust between parts of the community and the police department, undermining law enforcement legitimacy among African Americans in particular.

A consequence of these practices is that blacks, who are usually poor, cannot afford the fines and fees and so served jail time instead. A domino effect of that jail time is that getting a good job after having been jailed is much more difficult. This then contributes to unemployment, underemployment, and continued black poverty.

Let me be clear here. Most police departments are not as bad as Ferguson. Too many are though. And some are worse. And even in the better ones there is the unconscious bias effecting decisions and actions that lead to the appearance and the reality that blacks are not treated equally under our legal system.

With this sort of mistrust how else should the black community respond to reports of unarmed blacks being killed by white police officers?
Adding to this is the fact that for many years police were able to get away with very questionable actions in regards to the use of violence to subdue subjects. Today, with the ubiquitous camera phones, some of those practices are seeing the light of day, and are creating their own effects and waves. All of this has created a climate of distrust between much of the public, especially the blacks, and the police.

So what should be done to correct this, to create and strengthen the trust between law enforcement and community that is such a necessary part of any functional society? That is what I will be discussing in my next blog on this subject.

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Due to a recent Supreme Court Decision (not upheld by God though), in order to allow full religious liberty for all, we have had to revise our requirements and procedures for the obtainment of marriage licenses. Please read these instructions carefully and follow them fully.

In addition to the previous requirements of a valid photo ID and, if a previous marriage has been dissolved, proof of that dissolvement, the following information must also be provided (please be aware that a divorce could affect your ability to obtain a marriage license from this office)(please also be aware that providing false information on any of the information required is cause to reject your application and could also result in a fine of not less than $100).

  1. Form 434463-8BBB must be filled out fully.
    1. Include all employers, no matter how briefly the employment may have been.
    2. Include all past addresses, no matter how briefly you may have resided there.
    3. Be aware that to verify your checking and savings account a voided check will be necessary for the checking account and a blank deposit slip for the savings account.
    4. Your e mail address and passcodes for access to your e mail account are required.
    5. Your Facebook page, LinkedIn page, and other social media accounts are required.
    6. All information requested is needed for a thorough background check and is required. All lines and questions need to be fully filled out.  Should the information requested not apply to you do NOT leave the line blank.  Instead, put NA down.
    7. Be aware that leaving out requested information or providing false information are causes for rejection of your application and could also  result in a fine of not less than $150.
  2. Please answer fully form 2424998-CBU-21-X about your hobbies, interests, proclivities, and other activities.
    1. Provide a complete listing of all interests, hobbies, and other activities whether it is chess club, shooting range, flying, political party, etc.
    2. Be sure to include whether or not you drink alcoholic beverages and consume pork.
    3. Include both you and your potential partner’s religion and racial status.
    4. Be aware that leaving out requested information or providing false information are causes for  rejection of your application and could also result in a fine of not less than $200.
  3. Please answer fully form EZ956-29XZ-86680 about sexual preferences, past sexual history, and current sexual activity.
    1. This includes not only heterosexual or homosexual activities but also all instances of adultery (provided you have previously been married) pre-marital sex, mastubational activities, sexual acts with those related to you (provide degree of relationship), sexual acts with more than one partner, and sexual acts with organism or objects other than human.
    2. Be aware that leaving out requested information or providing false information are causes for rejection of your application and could also result in a fine of not less than $350.
  1. Once all forms and information have been provided please allow four weeks to process.  This is in order to ensure that we have a county clerk who, due to their firmly held religious belief, is not offended by one or more of your activities, associations, past history, decisions, employment, religion, racial status, sexual orientation, and sexual activities and thus not able to issue you a marriage certificate.
  2. Should this office have no one available whom you have not offended the firmly held religious sensibilities of, we will forward your paperwork to the next nearest county clerk office to see if they have a clerk whose firmly held religious beliefs will allow them to process this for you.
    1. Should all clerks there find that processing your application for a marriage certificate violates one or more of their firmly held religious beliefs then there will be a nominal charge of $25 to forward the application to the next county office.

Provided you can obtain a marriage license from one of our clerks, we wish you a very happy marriage.

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Soon after the vicious and brutal murder of nine blacks at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church by Dylann Roof I started to hear conservative commentators commenting on how different the reaction of the Charleston community to this killing of blacks by a white than that of Ferguson; about how the Charleston community, both black and white, pulled together in unity while that of Ferguson erupted in violence.

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The clear inference (one often made explicit by some conservative commentators) was that there really is no underlying race problem in America and that those who say that there is are race baiters intent upon stirring up racial conflict and hatred for their own personal and/or political benefit. The reality, according to these commentators, is that our society and its institutions are largely free of racial bias. That, contrary to the stated experiences of many millions of blacks, that our police departments are enforcing laws and reacting to citizens without regards to their color, that our justice system dispenses justice to black and whites alike largely without regards to color, that our educational system treats all students alike regardless of color, and that job opportunities for black and white are such that skin color plays no role the vast majority of times. In other words, that our society has achieved racial equality.

I call this Kum Ba Yah bullshit.

The danger of conservative’s kum ba yah bullshit is that It puts the responsibility for all change firmly on the backs of blacks. They are responsible for creating better families, for better educating their children, for better following the law and the police, for doing better on finding jobs. They are responsible for their culture and it is the black culture that is the problem. Blacks, according to this “logic” just need to work and try harder. No need for whites to change anything.

Now, in a discussion on this with a conservative a few weeks ago, he used a baseball analogy to try to bring home his point. He said that my position was akin to defeatism, that if we tell blacks that they cannot do it, that their problems are the result of institutional racism and unconscious biases and prejudices instead of them, then we are like the coach of a team telling his team that they are losers. And that by so doing that team, and blacks, do lose.

I applauded his analogy. And I agree, blacks do need to work hard at changing things, at trying to achieve goals and change their culture. However, I pointed out that a better analogy would be that of two teams playing a game of baseball. One team has the standard three outs in order to get hits. The other team though only has two outs before they are retired. No matter how good the coaching, no matter how much that team works at it, no matter how motivated they are, they are going to lose most of the time. Not because of talent or ability, not because of motivation and persistence, but because the rules of the game are rigged against them. And until those rules are changed to be fair and just no matter who is playing the game then members of that team are, justifiably, going to feel anger, are going to feel frustrated. So much so that they may take out their anger on the other team or on the umpires of the game. Or even those of the spectators watching the game.

Yes, the black community needs to continue to work hard to improve their culture and lot, but at the same time they are operating under a handicap even more severe than that of a baseball team playing with only two outs in hand. They are operating within a society that still has institutional racism as part of its fabric and in which largely unconscious biases and prejudices still hold sway in determining the actions of those in power. What makes it worse, so many do not even acknowledge that such problems exist and deny them totally.ferguson-riots-lin_3116889k

Black culture. That is the favorite response of the conservative when asked what is at the root of the disparities in education, economic status, and justice between whites and blacks. And to an extent they are right. However, they never ask the more important question of how black culture was formed and what maintains it today. Instead, they seem to see black culture as something of a virgin birth or as something coming fully formed from the foam.

Conservatives ignore the fact that black culture was formed from the brutality that was slavery, modified by them chains of Jim Crow laws and lynchings, formed by government policies and industry actions, and reinforced by the media.

Black culture was formed by the broken families of the slave era, by the repression of the Jim Crow laws and actions of the KKK and others. It was formed by practices such as redlining which from 1934 – 1962 kept blacks form getting any of the 120 billion dollars handed out by the government for home loans which thus forced segregation by forcing blacks into living in ghettos. This has the ripple effect in that blacks, unlike the whites who received these loans, did not have property they could pass own to their children and use as a basis for creating wealth for themselves and their family.

Or consider the effect this had on education. Schools are funded by property taxes. Since the vast majority of blacks could not afford to live in good homes and could not get the loans to attain good homes, they did not have the tax base to create good schools. Combine this with the segregation effects and you have the basis for the educational disparities we see today. All of which then lead to less opportunities for getting better jobs.

And that is just one example of what is called institutional racism. Another is how blacks are portrayed in the media – tv, radio, newspapers, magazines. White skin and standards are held up as beautiful, blacks are not. Blacks are shown as criminals much more often than they are in real life, and whites much less than they are in real life.

Such practices as these and more effect all areas of society – medicine, justice, and family. They are what helped form black culture. And without efforts on the parts of whites to acknowledge this and change it, then blacks can only go go far, can only do so much. Individuals can overcome it – after all there are great people of all races, but most people of all races are average, and it is those people who are going to continue to suffer the most from this unresolved racism.
And then there is the very real effects of unconscious bias within our society. It affects whose resume will result in a call for an interview and whose will not, it affects how police and judges and jury react and dispense justice., it effects teachers and educators expectations.

The only way true racial justice and equality is going to be achieved is if all or most whites will recognize this problem. Many already do. However, this is a blind spot of most conservatives. They refuse to see this and thus make huge mistakes in judgements and in recommendations on what needs to be done. Mistakes that not only do nothing to solve the problems, but often actually make the problem worse.

For example, comparing Ferguson with Charleston. Yes, in both cases a white person killed a black person or people. However, that is as far as the comparison goes. In Ferguson, a white police officer and member of a police force that was found to be engaged in racist practices, shot and killed an unarmed black man. In Charleston nine blacks were killed by a lone racist gunman who belonged to no government organization or private one apparently. That lack of government affiliation makes a huge difference. Ferguson experienced riots not because a white had killed a black person, but because a white representative of a government agency which had been engaged in racist practices killed an unarmed black person. Charleston did not erupt into violent protests because the gunman was working on his own and did not represent a government with power over the black community.

A clear and easily seen difference. And yet, one that so many conservatives seem to be blind to.

Just as they seem to be blind to the problems inherent in the government flying the Confederate battle flag. Conservatives article-2249806-168FF9A7000005DC-246_634x423insist on defending this as just an exhibition of pride in their heritage. Pride in a heritage that included the attempted dissolution of the United States in order to protect their right to treat people as property, of no more worth than a hog or a cabinet. Yes, many like to phrase this in terms of state’s rights, but it was the state’s right to allow whites to own blacks to do with as they wish. It was a state right to refuse freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of assembly to those who advocated for abolition; to confiscate abolitionist literature and burn it, to break the presses of those publications advocating for the abolition of slavery, it was the fining, imprisonment, flogging, and tar and feathering of those who advocated for treating blacks as free people.

Those are the heritage that conservatives want to remember and honor? Yes, many brave and good men fought and died for the south. But so too did good and brave men die fighting for Nazi Germany. I wonder, if the conservatives would make the same argument for those who would honor the Nazi flag.

And finally, one last area of racial blindness conservatives seem to suffer from. Today, a podcast came out, an interview with President Obama by Marc Maron in which President Obama used the word “nigger”. Conservatives are jumping all over President Obama’s use of this word. However, just as in their comparison of Ferguson with Charleston, and defense of the Confederate flag, their blindness to context and meaning is apparent. Here is the full quote:

obama2010“The legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, discrimination in almost every institution of our lives, you know, that casts a long shadow, and that’s still part of our DNA that’s passed on. We’re not cured of it. And it’s not just a matter of it not being polite to say ‘nigger’ in public. That’s not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. It’s not just a matter of overt discrimination… Societies don’t, overnight, completely erase everything that happened 200 to 300 years prior.”

And this actually does a good job of summing up the problem with most conservatives. They believe that since we have made the use of nigger in public a thing to be ashamed of, since we have gotten rid of most of the overt discrimination that discrimination does not exist at all. And that is foolish of them. As President Obama said, “societies don’t, overnight, completely erase everything that happened 200 to 300 years prior”. In fact, I would amend that statement to say even as recently as the 1960s and 1970s this overt racism was still prevalent. And that past still lingers and impacts us today.

And this is something most conservatives do not see. They point to the very real gains that have been made in civil rights since the 1960s and declare victory. However, it is not. That was only the start of the victory. It is as if General Eisenhower had declared victory the day after the D Day invasion of Normandy and stopped all further actions since victory had been achieved. Blindness.

The greater struggle is with us now, the struggle to deal with those aspects of racism that are not so easily seen by those not on the receiving end of it. Change the institutional racism that still exists and make clear the hidden biases and prejudices that effect our decisions and then victory will be achieved. . And the first step that is needed to deal with this is to acknowledge that it exists.

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Freedom of speech. Almost everyone lauds it as not only necessary for a functioning democracy and a free society, but as a positive good. In the United States this concept is protected in our first amendment.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

However, some argue that there are limits on free speech. In fact, almost everyone, including me, agrees that there are limits on free speech, just as there are for all of our other rights whether it be freedom of religion or the right to own a gun. The more interesting questions though is what those limits are and who should be the ones enforcing those limits.

What brings this up today for me – and why this is not my next post on myths about the American Constitution – is that this has become a very hot topic with the murder of 11 people in the attack on the offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo by Muslim terrorists. Should speech that is hateful or strongly offends religious beliefs be limited?

Tribute To Victims Killed During Attack At Satirical Magazine Charlie Hebdo At Place De La Republique In Paris

Now, in the United States there are already many limits on free speech. For example:

– It is illegal to engage in speech that encourages others to commit specific and imminent illegal acts. To use the old (and outdated) analogy of shouting fire in a theater: shouting fire in a theater by itself is not illegal, but shouting fire when there is none that incites an unlawful and deadly or injurious riot would be. Relevant to this is the 1969 Supreme Court decision in Brandenburg v. Ohio that ruled that inflammatory speech, even speech advocating violence, is protected under the first Amendment unless the speech “is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.”

– Child pornography and other types that may be deemed obscene.

– Libel and slander.

– Copyright laws are also a limitation on free speech.

– Laws regulating advertising are also a limitation on free speech.

– Statements made by public employees in the performance of their work can also be limited and are not protected by the free speech clause of the First Amendment.

– Patent laws and laws against disclosing military secrets are likewise limitations to free speech.

– Laws limiting when and where public demonstrations can occur.

So, there are already several limitation on free speech in the United States. And that is not even considering the fact that free speech only applies to governmental actions. If you are working for a private business you have no right to free speech while working. Your employer can limit what you can and cannot say. For that matter, parents have the same power over their children.

freedom-of-speech1

Now though many feel that we should be adding one more restriction to free speech, a limitation or law against Hate Speech. The American Bar Association defines Hate Speech as:

Hate speech is speech that offends, threatens, or insults groups, based on race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, or other traits.

Before I explain why I am against hate speech laws let me first declare that I am against all hate speech. I would like it purged from society. Having said that though I must now make a critical distinction – there are different ways of accomplishing this, through government action or through the actions of people acting both alone and in groups.

All of our laws are a balancing act between the protection, preservation, and furtherance of a civil and fair society and the protection, preservation, and furtherance of individual freedom. This balancing act is necessary because a viable democratic society requires both a strong social structure and strong protections of individual liberties. Without both there can also be no stable, viable, democratic society. The catch is that both of these necessary values are also in a state of continual and dynamic tension with the other. In other words, they often clash. And when they do, trying to find the right balance is often not clear and almost always contested.

For myself, legislating hate speech and outlawing it is going too far. Yes, it is easy to point to examples that are clear hate speech; however, laws are not starkly black and white affairs. The world and the people who inhabit and live in that world are always faced with shades of gray – is a certain act murder or self defense or negligent homicide or unavoidable accident for example. How does hate speech get defined and enforced in those gray areas? Who makes the decision in those cases? It would be very easy for those in power or for a majority group to use a power to define what is and is not hate speech within the vast greys of reality to promote their own interests and values; to the detriment of minority groups and views.

For myself, when I look at how governments have tried to use legitimate concerns about society and the protection of our government to create and enforce laws that unnecessarily limit the speech of political opponents and of those who hold minority views, I think that making hate speech illegal would be giving the government too much power. Examples abound, from the Alien and Seditions Act of 1798 to the Smith Act of 1940 to the Communist Control Act of 1954 to our modern debate over Edward Snowden’s illegal leaks of classified materials.

In the case of hate speech, a much better balance is to leave illegal speech connected to imminent violent acts where it currently is, illegal and enforced by the government, and to have hate speech be denounced and protested against by private individuals and groups.

human-shield-300x200For example, having the hateful speech of the Westboro Baptist Church members being met with counter protests or campaigns to raise money for billboards with the message that “God Loves Gays” or having other protesters screening mourners at funerals being picketed by the Westboro Baptist Church with their own bodies and signs of support.

Or this, from the Division for Public Education of the American Bar Association:

Here’s how one community recently approached an incidence of hate speech by calling attention to it rather than attempting to suppress it—by encouraging speech that pointed out how out of place the hate speech was in a community that values the dignity of all.

Matt Hale, a notorious racist, was recently asked to speak at the University of Illinois at Springfield. Hale is the leader of the World of the Creator, a white supremacist group. His presence on campus was controversial. Several students, faculty, and community members thought that the university should cancel his appearance. Instead, he was allowed to speak. Hale’s audience was not impressed. He came across as having a confusing set of beliefs that were out of place in a democratic, multicultural society. Several faculty and students spoke out against his message of hatred.

By allowing Hale to speak, the university recognized free speech rights but also provided a means for community members to respond. Communitarian and libertarian goals were both met.

Yes, hate speech needs to be opposed. However, using governmental laws to accomplish this societal good carry too much risk to individual rights. A risk that in the end could pose a greater risk to a democratic society than allowing hate speech would.  Provided that individuals and groups continue to oppose such speech.

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