Tag Archives: Discrimination

More Summer Thoughts

I keep thinking in snippets this summer, which shouldn’t surprise anyone who knows me these days. My attention span is limited and though I sometimes try to loosen the strings on it, it just keeps coming back. So anyway, here are a few thoughts.

Burgers

When was the fifteen dollar burger born and where the hell have I been hiding? Come on. It’s a slap of chop meat, after all. But I guess if you put it on a brioche roll with caramelized onions and aioli mayo, it begins to market itself. it sounds higher end, like a dive with tablecloths. This burger craze started about ten years ago when the market fell out and people wanted alternative places to go for dinner that were reasonably priced. But as with everything else, people always try to push the envelope to see just how much the public will tolerate. And it appears, at least with burgers, the carnivores are willing to pay the price. But it’s still a slab of chop meat on a roll dressed up for a cheap photo shoot date.

Home For Mom

Joan Lunden does commercials for a place called A Home For Mom. It’s a senior care referral service. As I watched the commercial, I began wondering what happened to Dad. Is there a different commercial for him? I never saw one. Do we not think Dad is going to need a place or do we figure he”ll figure it out on his own? That’s a scary thought. Statistics tell us that women live longer than men but to blatantly toss dad to the side of the road on these commercials is a bit harsh, don’t you think? I wonder what 75 year old Dad is thinking as he’s sitting across from Mom and finishing his second bowl of chocolate, chocolate chunk caramel ice cream and this commercial comes on. Just wondering.

Eclipse

I think the eclipse thing was interesting and if you were in certain parts of the country when it was full it must have been a cool experience. But I saw people interviewed who drove fourteen hours for the two minute blackout and estimated it would take them twenty hours to get home. I saw others who were crying at the experience. There were people who planned their trips and marriages around this, paid lots of money for hotel rooms, endured standstill traffic jams and didn’t get to see much because it was cloudy. I don’t know what to say about these people. I hope you’re not one of them but if you are I don’t know what to say about you people. If you really want to be entertained and don’t mind traveling. I can take you to the beach in New Jersey one day. There are sights and people there that will entertain you for hours. You don’t know what you’re missing.

Scouts Of America

Apparently there’s a feud brewing between the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. It seems the Girl Scouts are upset because the Boy Scouts are trying to turn the tide on decreasing membership and decided to recruit girls for their organization. The Girl Scouts, of course were not amused. They referred to it as a “covert campaign” that was “reckless and unsettling.” The Boy Scouts argue that many millennial parents prefer their children be in the same organization and some girls have petitioned to join the ranks of the boys. Now I don’t know about you but I would never go to war against a woman. Men just aren’t properly equipped emotionally or intellectually to even be on the same dance floor as women so what makes anyone think this little battle will end up on the positive side of the ledger for the boys. That being said, it’s hard to argue for gender inclusion on one side of the coin but not on the other. I’m looking forward to a fun ten rounds, though I predict the knockout will come in round one.

Billie Jean

I was listening to Michael Jackson sing his hit song on the radio the other day and two lines reminded me of our politicians and those who blindly follow along.

And mother always told me be careful who you love
and be careful what you do ’cause the lie becomes the truth.

Have a great rest of your week and weekend. I’ll be working on my thoughts.

 

Ignorance On Steroids

Ignorance always seems to find a season. It never seems to max out, regardless of how bizarre the situation might be. There are always people willing to do something that some moron decided might be a good idea.

A few days ago I read an article about a game show in the Netherlands where male contestants were asked to guess whether woman on the show are fat or pregnant.

Really.

This is the same game show that asked contestants last year to guess whether a person was Japanese or Chinese, and in another segment, whether a woman’s breasts were real.

I have a pretty broad sense of humor but I didn’t think this was funny. It was simply dumbed down sensationalism at it’s worst.

I decided not provide the name of the show because I don’t want to give it any more publicity than it has already received. But as I thought about it, I wondered who I should be most upset with. The producers for financially supporting this show? The station for putting it on the air? The viewing public for watching? The advertisers? I mean there is a sufficient about of blame to go around here.
But the bottom line is, you don’t have a show if no one agrees to participate. If people who were paid to appear on it had a shred of sensitivity, decency or self worth, this or any show like it, would never find air time and maybe we wouldn’t still be having misogynistic or discriminatory discussions.

But it seems like many people have a price, and that number is not very high. My guess is it’s just a little north of their IQ.

 

A Room Of One’s Own

Several years ago I went back to school to take some writing courses and ended up completing my English degree with a minor in creative writing. One of the courses I took during that time was Women’s Prose and I became hooked on reading Virginia Woolf. I loved her voice and stream of consciousness writing but what really hooked me was her strength and how she used the art of writing as her basis of expression and freedom.

Virginia Woolf was one of the foremost modernists writers of the twentieth century, writing at a time when women were typically ignored or dismissed. In one of my favorite books of hers, A Room Of One’s Own, she writes,

All I could do was to offer you an opinion upon one minor point—a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction; and that, as you will see, leaves the great problem of the true nature of woman and the true nature of fiction unsolved.

When Virginia Woolf wrote, simply finding a place to write was difficult; to be taken seriously as a writer was near impossible. Some discriminatory attitudes, as they relate to women, have changed in todays society while some have just become more subtle in the manner in which they are presented.

One of the lines from this book which always stayed with me related to Virginia not being able to visit the library simply because she was a woman. When she was locked out, Woolf wrote, “I thought of the organ booming in the chapel and of the shut doors of the library; and I thought how unpleasant it is to be locked out; and I thought how it is worse perhaps to be locked in.”

To be locked in. The idea and image is suffocating. If you’re locked out you may have the opportunity to turn away and begin again. You can choose another path or find an avenue that may be less constricting or impenetrable but the opportunity to breath remains an available choice. Being locked in removes choices from your life. You become dependent on someone else for the breath of your life; that freedom of expression that helps you find your own room. 

Being locked in continues to be a disturbing way of life for many people. The prison that is created by these thoughts or actions are easy to build and difficult to escape unless you have the strength to survive and the belief of a dream.

So much has changed in the hundred or so years since Virginia Woolf wrote these words.

Unfortunately, too much has remained the same.

 

Take The Damn Flag Down

I try awful hard on this blog to stay away from political or religious discussions, mainly because someone is going to be offended by what I write. Quite honestly, I don’t mind that because you can’t please everyone. But I prefer lighter writings laced with humor or questions that make you think about how you might handle or react to a situation.

But Charleston, S.C. has changed that for this post. For the purposes of full disclosure, I’m a 63-year-old white male who lives in New Jersey and has his entire life. I grew up in a pretty diversified town and have seen enough things, including race riots, so that nothing really surprises me.

The murder of nine African-Americans as they sat in their place of worship by a white man whose desire was to start a Civil War was horrific. The fact that the confederate flag ever had a place of honor in any state defies the logic of common decency. The fact that it is still flying today, after all that’s happened, leads me to think of words that I prefer not to use.

My purpose is not to engage in a history lesson here but it should be noted that this symbol was never the official flag of the Civil War. In fact, three different flags were used but the one that was generally considered the official flag of the confederacy was General Robert E. Lee’s army flag of Northern Virginia.
The confederate flag  that flies today was used at Veteran’s events following the Civil War but gained prominence in the 1940’s when used by the newly formed Dixiecrat Party as a symbol of segregation and whose motto was “segregation forever.”

Many people argue that this flag is a source of southern pride. I’ve always been curious about that statement because I’m not sure why this flag needs to be a source of pride. I’ve visited Charleston and other cities in South Carolina. The area is beautiful and the people have always been very friendly, even to this northerner. That should be your source of pride South Carolina, not a symbol that is associated with segregation and slavery; and make no mistake, this flag, is a symbol of a darker time in this country. If perception is indeed reality, there should be no discussion here.

The person who committed these murders, whose name I won’t mention here and whose face I prefer never to see again on any news show or paper, wanted to create civil unrest in this country. He believed the murder of these innocent people might create the type of riots he saw in Baltimore. Or worse. But that didn’t happen. Instead the families of those who were murdered forgave him of his crime and the church and community came together in prayer and hope for understanding and healing.

By law, only the government of South Carolina has the power to remove this flag. But the stronger message it will send to this murderer and anyone else who may have similar thoughts is this….

We don’t want this symbol of slavery and oppression to be a part of our lives any longer. We don’t want it associated with the state in which we live or the people we represent. We understand this move will not change the past but we also understand that we can’t move forward to a place of understanding unless we educate our children and own up to our mistakes. Because our only hope is that our children aren’t taught hate and fear. Our only hope is that our children will learn acceptance and understanding. The removal of this flag would be a small step in that direction so that future generations don’t have the false belief that this symbol is a source of pride.

Just take the damn flag down.

Slapping Stupidity

There really isn’t much that sets me off to the point of immediate anger. You can count them on one hand with fingers left over. Disrespect is one of those things. Its a trigger point for me.  I’ve seen too much of it directed at women, the elderly, those less fortunate, even children.

I don’t know how this woman kept herself under control as well as she did but she said she’s dealt with it far too often so maybe you find a way to cope. I’m not a woman so I really don’t know.

Don’t you just want to slap the smug stupidity off the faces of this human garbage? The first guy talking even takes off his sunglasses so there is no mistaking the apparent pride he feels in making these comments. The other excuse for wasted DNA suggests that because they say these types of things at soccer games in England, its okay to do the same thing here and believes his mother would die laughing when she saw this.

Really?

Let me tell you what I would do. If either of these stenches worked for me, assuming they even have jobs, their personal belongings would be at the front door the next morning. I wouldn’t want them contaminating my building any more than they already have. Then I’d have a serious conversation with their supervisors because I’m pretty sure this conduct is not  specific to soccer games.

If they were my significant other, their clothes and personal items would be in the dumpster. In flames.

As far as being a parent to one of these genetic mistakes, I don’t think laughter would be an initial response, though again, I’m confident this type of behavior didn’t show up that day. Respect is learned over time.

The worthless excuse for a security guard who stood there with a half-smile on his face as he picked up his camera time? Unemployment line with those other putrid abominations of waste. Standing around doing nothing is just as bad as the insults.

This is the cleaned up version of what I’d really like to say.

Sorry…..but this stuff just gets under my skin.

Hard To Explain This One

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
Before you’re six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.
Oscar Hammerstein

I’m going to preface this post by saying that I’m a white male who is a practicing Catholic. I went to Catholic grammar and high school. I was an altar boy for many years as well as a member of the CYO. So on many levels this story is embarrassing, disappointing and sad.

Last week, there was a high school basketball game played in New Jersey between Atlantic City High School, which has a very diverse population and Holy Spirit Catholic High School. While both teams have some white players, the majority of players are African-American. During the course of the game, in what was described as “team spirit”, Holy Spirit students hung a curtain on the floor, just behind the basket. Whenever an Atlantic City player went to the foul line, they opened a curtain to reveal two students dressed up as a monkey and a banana, taunting the African-American players who were shooting the foul shots. They proceeded to jump and dance in close proximity to the players on the court, or the monkey held the banana in his arms.

Think that’s bad? There’s more.

A Holy Spirit School official acknowledged the conduct violated league rules for sportsmanship and said it would not happen again but that no students would be punished because of the incident, according to the athletic director.He said, “I’m not going to kick anyone out of school or whip anybody. All I can do is apologize, I can’t take it back. The punishment is that it will not happen again. Really? That it will not happen again is a punishment?  How will our children ever learn?

The coach from Holy Spirit had this to say, “There’s absolutely nothing that was intended to be racial whatsoever. it was a group of kids trying to have fun with something they saw on television. There was no malice there whatsoever. If anyone wants to make it out to be that, it’s not. We have a respectable school community. We have four out of five starter  that are African-American kids. That’s not what this was about. It was just kids thinking through what their perception should be, but there was absolutely nothing racial and somebody is making something racial about it.” So having African-American players on your team justifies this type of action? 

So if there was nothing wrong with this, why were the referees reprimanded, the students warned and “punished” and officials from Holy Spirit issuing apologies?
If this is a kids being kids excuse, which I’m tired of hearing, where were the adults to explain the insensitivity. How did they get into a gym wearing these costumes? Why didn’t the refs stop it immediately instead of letting it continue? Why didn’t school officials step in and someone with an ounce of intelligence suggest that this isn’t the image they want the school to project for their “respectable school community.”? At the very least, these students were in violation of multiple Spectator Code of Conduct rules governing high school sports in the state. And yet not one adult, stepped in and said, this is wrong. Not one. How sad and pathetic is that?

So these Catholic school officials didn’t see anything wrong with this action, huh? Just kids having fun? Well, let me be as harsh as I can be here since we’re using the kids being kids excuse and the adults seem to be clueless.

I wonder how the school officials from Holy Spirit would have reacted if a couple of Atlantic City High School students dressed up as a priest and ten-year old boy and the priest was holding the boy in his arms and dancing with him.

Not so funny now, is it? Need me to elaborate further on insensitivity?

No, I didn’t think so.

 

 

I Don’t Like Or Trust Middle Age White Men

                                             

Several years ago I went back to college when I was approaching fifty in order to finish what I had started decades before. It’s a long story that’s not relevant to this post but I was taking evening courses while continuing to work during the day. Needless to say, I was usually the oldest student in class. The university I attended was a state school about twenty minutes outside of New York City so the enrollment population was very diversified. When I took a course on Religions of the World, it was enlightening to hear from so many people speaking first hand about their beliefs and experiences. It made the course come to life for me.

I had been attending classes about three years when I took a course on Conflicts and Resolutions.   Not exactly part of the English/Creative Writing curriculum, but an elective requirement. About three weeks into the fall semester, the professor had us turn our chairs into a circle so that we all faced each other. Then she asked each one of us to tell the rest of the class about someone in their lives they had an issue with and how, or if, they resolved the problem. About half way through the exercise we came to a young African-American woman who didn’t hesitate to share her feelings. With a pronounced edge to her voice she spoke nine words I’d never forget , “I don’t like or trust middle age white men.” She didn’t look at me when she spoke and she didn’t have to. Everyone else did. I was the only one there who fit her description.

I can tell you it was an uncomfortable moment but I’m guessing you already figured that out. There were six or seven seconds that felt like several minutes where it seemed as if everyone stopped breathing. Or maybe it was just me.  The professor, to her credit, didn’t ask the young woman to explain herself. She simply announced that we should take a break.

As everyone filed out of the classroom, I followed the young woman. I didn’t know what I was going to say as I approached her but I don’t like pink elephants so I knew I couldn’t go through the rest of the semester like that. When I caught up to her I asked if we could speak  for a few minutes. She didn’t answer, she just tilted her head a bit and seemed to looked through me. Waiting. I didn’t ask her to explain why she said what she did or why she felt that way.  I would never presume to understand her past and the discriminations I’m sure witnessed first hand but I had an idea. I asked her where she was from and when she didn’t answer, I told her the name of the city where I grew up. She didn’t say anything but her head straightened up and I could see in her eyes she was surprised. Maybe in her mind middle age white men in a dress shirt and pants don’t come from those type of places. I told her I was never a victim of racism or discrimination but that on several occasions I’d seen my mother and father held at gunpoint by black men who were robbing the small grocery store they owned, how I was threatened with a meat cleaver over a baseball field and pulled out of bed at night because of gunshots outside our first floor apartment window that had bars on them to keep people from trying to break in.  Most times I was the only white kid at the playground basketball court but it never seemed to matter to me or the kids I was playing with at the time. We were all just looking for the same game. And I told her all of that meant nothing because I could still walk down the street that night and no one would cross to the other side of the road because they were afraid of me or be suspicious of me because of the color of my skin. I tried to explain that not every middle age white man is the same and that neither of us should assume to know each other without knowing each other. After a few moments she nodded, said “fair enough,” and walked back to class without another word. We had two or three very brief conversations the rest of that semester that didn’t last more than a minute or two. And when the final class ended we nodded to each other before walking out. I never ran into her again.

Racism is a difficult topic to discuss and I don’t pretend to have the answers or understand the complexities of this issue.  History and emotions are not easily dismissed and discrimination is ever-present.  I’ve always believed fear and ignorance play a large part in people’s perceptions of others. I’ve heard people say they’re not racist because they don’t see color. Of course they see color. We all do regardless of our race or ethnicity. We also see height and weight, hair style, glasses, looks, clothing, wealth, color and nationality in the moment someone walks in the door. If anyone tells you differently they’re not being honest. It’s human nature. We make initial evaluations based on what we see, to believe otherwise would be naive. However it’s the decisions we make following those evaluations that decide who we are and what we believe.

Racism and discrimination are a toxic complexity.  We need to have a serious discussion about race in this country and we need to do it honestly, directly and with respect for everyone’s position and opinion. I realize that human nature may never allow us to eliminate racism, but we can make it better. The truth is, there are too many people on both sides of the issue who will not forget, refuse to forgive and only see what they chose.  Complicated issues don’t have simple solutions and there is never one reason or one answer. But we have to start somewhere. We have to believe that even the most wounded will meet us halfway. Sometimes a simple conversation is a beginning. Sometimes that’s all you need.