I have, up to this point, refrained from saying much on this specific person, but now it is time to do so, but I’m not looking to have the same discussion everyone else is having regarding her and what she did.
Earlier this month, a white woman found herself filled with faux-fear of Black people gathering in the public space at Lake Merritt in Oakland, California for a barbecue.
As a result of this fake fear she called the police and reported the group for “suspicious behavior” for no reason other than to get the police to officially harass the family, most likely in the hope that someone would become belligerent about the unwarranted harassment and give the police an excuse to escalate the encounter.
We know for a fact her reported fear was a false fear because she spent the entire time waiting for the police verbally harassing the group, shouting at and berating them.
Thankfully, the police handled this situation correctly, and she was the one they ended up removing.
In the aftermath she has experienced her 15 minutes of Internet infamy, finding her image photoshopped into nearly every significant image of people of color gathering from Dr. King’s “I have a dream” speech to “Soul Train,” to the “Sugar Shack,” to the “Last Supper.” In every image she is on her mobile phone reporting the suspicious gathering to the police.
We also now know that she is a Stanford educated Doctor of Philosophy with a focus on Chemical Engineering. Her name is Dr. Jennifer Schulte.
This means that intelligent or not, she is most definitely highly educated. We also know that a racist “Doctor of Philosophy with a focus in Chemical Engineering” is the closest social media will allow you to come to labeling yourself a “Doctor of Eugenics” whether on your Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn profile.
What I want to talk about is bigger than her.
What I want to talk about is bigger than the increasing frequency of exposure of white people reporting people of color to the police in order to have them harassed for going about their normal daily activities. Activities such as meeting friends at a Starbucks, leaving an Airbnb property, napping in the college dorm, or just trying to do their job.
What I want to talk about is bigger than the racist bigots calling ICE on anyone with a Latinx/Hispanic appearance or who dares to speak Spanish in a public space. Especially if their targets happen to be working in a restaurant or other service industry business. They do this with no regard to the fact that many, if not most of them, may very well be natural citizens and legal immigrants, they just want to see them persecuted for daring to share the same space.
What I want to talk about is bigger than all of that.
I want to talk about us, and by “Us” I mean all the White people, just like me who consider ourselves to be “not a racist,” but live in a world that accepts all of this going on around us on a daily basis.
The racist argument is based entirely on the fact that an entire classification of people can be judged by the behaviors of their worst members, no matter how few of those worst examples there are.
As long as we allow this to continue unchecked, as long as there are not consequences for the worst of those of our own demographic, we cannot honestly blame anyone for grouping us in with our own worst element. And sadly, we have more than a few. We’ve empowered them into the highest levels of our government, economy, and social structure.
People with beliefs just like Dr. Jennifer Schulte are teachers, loan officers, police officers, politicians, firemen, ambulance technicians, doctors, plumbers, contractors, bus drivers, and more. And if this is the way they behave when they expect anonymity and/or preferential deference, you know that they’re unleashing far worse on their targets within their professional capacity to do so at every opportunity they believe they can get away with it.
We’ve allowed them to establish the laws, regulations, rules, policies, procedures, and algorithms that permit them to enforce their bigotry and hatred upon their victims.
We often even benefit from the systemic racism they’ve established, it’s become so entrenched that we may not even notice it. And when it is pointed out to us, we often become defensive. We say we didn’t make the rules. We say we don’t have the ability to change them. But, we don’t go out of our way to avoid the benefit of them either.
It is no longer enough, it really never has been enough, to be not-racist. We must all be aggressively anti-racist.
We must call it out whenever we see it.
This is the pro-active strategy that we can implement:
Be alert and vigilant in public spaces. Look for a “suspicious” white person when a black person or a group of black people walk into the space.
Such a person will appear nervous, agitated, or angry. If they call the police:
1. Begin to record the scene.
2. Approach the black individual(s) and explain that you are an ally as a witness.
3. Call a friend or relative to let them know what you are doing and that you may get arrested.
4. Remain on site as a witness until the police arrive.
5. Once the police arrive, engage with the police if they detain or arrest the black individual(s). Get names and badges numbers.
6. If the black individuals are handcuffed and taken to the police station, DO NOT post your video on social media.
7. Instead, call local media.
8. Call the local bar association to get a pro bono attorney to follow up.
If you sense that the police may arrest you, immediately send your video footage to your cloud account or a friend. If arrested, do not say a word while detained in lock-up.
You have privilege.
Don’t just talk about how bad things are, or worse, ignore overt and systemic racism as “Not my problem, not my responsibility.”
Use it to create equality for those that do not.
Until we take it upon ourselves to bring about the necessary change, nothing is going to change.
You have privilege.
Don’t just talk about how bad things are, or worse, ignore overt and systemic racism as “Not my problem, not my responsibility.”
Use it to create equality for those that do not.
Until we take it upon ourselves to bring about the necessary change, nothing is going to change.
Immediately after Donald Trump announced that the U.S. would withdraw its military troops from Syria, another chemical attack occurred in within the country.
In response, Israeli fighters used Lebanese airspace to launch missiles at an Iranian base in Russian and Turkish supported Syria, using the chemical attacks on Syrian citizens as their justification.
All while a blustering United States President –with no understanding of diplomacy or conflict resolution — refuses to stand against Russia or Syria in any substantive way because he hero worships the leaders of Russia and Turkey.
Meanwhile, that same United States President is engaged in a trade war with China undermining any incentive for them to help with North Korean negotiations.
A recurring theme on the blog, the corresponding Facebook page and Twitter feed, over the course of the year has been exposing #Culturalinertia and discussing how it affects us. You can read those previous entries here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6.
Today, as the year nears its end, I’d like to put forth for specific consideration a slightly different type of message.
Instead of looking at specific examples of the phenomenon, let’s look at the major cause of it and the best tool available to us to over come it.
Pluralistic ignorance occurs when people erroneously infer that they feel differently from their peers, even though they are behaving similarly.
This ignorance can be reinforced or overcome by properly applying the concepts of “Social Proof.”
Social proof is based on the idea of normative social influence, which states that people will conform in order to be liked by, [people] similar to [them] or accepted by the influencer (or society).
The combination of these concepts indicates that people, when unsure of how to behave, will look to those around them who are similiar to them, or people they respect, and mirror that behavior.
The need to conform to the social proof can even force a behavioral change in someone who knows the actions they are observing to be morally incorrect so as not to be seen as different and made an outcast.
Now, consider a Person of Color being verbally abused by a White racist, if nobody stops to intervene, the social proof for those walking by is that the behavior is acceptable enough that they are not supposed to do anything about it, even if they disagree with it. Especially if they are physically similar in appearance to the attacker instead of the victim.
If there are mutliple attackers the social norm could drive enough pluralistic ignorance to compel those passing by to join in the attack instead of help the victim, even if they themselves would not normally initiate such an incident on their own.
However, if another similar looking White person stops to intervene, another will follow their lead instead of that of the attacker. This proof of proper behavior will spur more to choose the role of protectors.
When it comes to this bigotry and racism, we need to change the social proof to indicate without question that such behavior is unacceptable. We cannot allow the normal accepted response to such behavior to be apathetic indifference or a mob mentality attack.
Until we do so, we condemn ourselves to having to constantly wonder why this is still continuing, why we must keep having the same battles. And worse, we condemn those victims of it to the choice of either remaining victims or aggressively reversing the situation on their own, and then we’ll complain about their methodology instead of helping them specifically because they violated the social norms of acceptable behavior themselves.
The social proof of pluralistic ignorance becomes even harder, but more vital, to overcome when those in positions of great power and authority are openly displaying and calling for behavior we know to be abhorrent and unacceptable.
When that happens admissions of sexual assault become “locker room talk,” and secretly conspiring with adversarial governments to undermine and overthrow our own becomes “partisan disagreement.”
If you want to break the momentum of this, or any, Cultural Inertia, you must be willing to be an agent of change. You must step up and help provide the social proof that the behavior you want to see is behavior that others should mirror.
You need to be the shining light allowing those lost in the dark to see.
If you aren’t willing to do that, you have become one of those lost to the pluralistic ignorance, reinforced by the social proof you see around you, that has led you to believe that it is too late to do anything or that anything you do won’t be enough.
As long as enough people believe that, they’ll continue to be right.
It is time to change the norms.
We must, each of us, be willing to be the one that makes the change.
Like me, I imagine you have seen far more women than you may have expected, maybe even if you are a woman, posting “Me too” as their social media status.
This #MeToo movement is intended to show the world just how prevalent sexual harassment and sexual assault truly is.
Because, whether they ever reported it or not, it has happened to them too.
The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a government agency responsible for processing the sexual harassment complaints that do get reported, says nearly one-third of the 90,000 complaints received in 2015 included a harassment allegation — but the agency notes that that number is far too low to reflect reality.
And this only includes those brave enough to risk losing their income, careers, personal relationships, and any remaining dignity by coming forward and going through the ordeal of proving their claim.
They also estimate that 75 percent of all workplace harassment incidents go unreported altogether.
Look at how society treats those who do speak up from shame, victim blaming, and threats, to open retaliation and it should be obvious why so few choose to step forward.
Statistically, I am fairly certain that at least half of all women are sexually assaulted at some point in their lives. And, far more have been sexually harassed.
Some men are also joining in with their own “Me too” announcements, because men and boys can be harassed and assaulted also. By men and women.
Based on my own social media feeds, and the available statistical data, it would seem that far more people have been victimized than not, especially among women.
Statistically, 1 in 6 boys will have been assaulted by the age of 18. The percentage drops in adulthood, but not enough to become insignificant.
This does not include sexual harassment claims by men or women in the workplace.
We must then consider that abused young men, who don’t receive help, often become abusers themselves later. If we can reasonably expect each to have mutliple victims over the course of their lives (because someone who does this, rarely limits themselves to one target), then the primary causation for the other numbers becomes to come clear.
Untreated young victims growing up believing the only way not to be a victim again is to be an abuser, being raised in a society that glorifies hyper-masculinity (even from females that don’t want to appear or be labeled “weak”) and stigmatizes sex while inundating everyone with sexuality, and finally attacks any victim, that dares to step forward, to further victimize them for daring to speak up.
This is the world we have built. It is up to us to fix it.
This is the sixth entry in an ongoing series exposing entrenched patterns in our societal culture that hinder our progress and what we can do to break free of them. Previous entries are still available. Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4. Part 5.
Over the last few days, more and more information detailing a long history of workplace sexual abuse by Harvey Weinstein has been surfacing.
People have been quick to jump all over this in order to further partisan political divides.
Even the President and many of his followers weighed in suggesting that any democrats that received money from Weinstein over the years should have to return it.
We have created a long standing and deeply entrenched rape culture based on toxic masculinity. The pervasiveness of this extends far beyond any one political party or any one socioeconomic class.
This is a culture that routinely punishes school girls for being distractions to male students who are taught “boys will be boys” instead of how to become real men who don’t give in to their base impulses.
This is a culture that assumes a woman who gets raped must have not only deserved it but asked for it, by the way she dressed, the way she acted, the fact that she was drinking in public, or even because she’s actually had consensual sex at some point in her past.
This is a culture that would rather allow a court room to further destroy a young woman for daring to file a police report and press charges against her assailant, than properly sentence a sexual predator for fear that punishment might harm his future potential. They don’t care at all about the future potential of his victim(s).
This is a culture that would not only force a young rape victim to carry a child she was impregnated with during her rape to term, but then give her rapist joint custody.
This is a culture that will ruin the career of a woman who steps forth with allegations of sexual assault in the workplace.
This is a culture that assumes any woman who achieves any level of business success must have achieved her position of power through sexual influence and “sleeping her way to the top.”
This is a culture that enables rapists while discouraging and punishing the victims for speaking out.
This is a result of a society based upon the key to success being toxic masculinity.
A few years back, Rachel Lu wrote an excellent article on the subject, in which she stated:
Feminists are now in love with the term “toxic masculinity,” but interestingly, it doesn’t seem to have originated with them. It was coined in the 90s by men’s advocates (such as the Mythopoetic Men’s Movement) who were looking to contrast a normal, healthy masculinity with more negative manifestations of manliness. As more and more boys grew up without fathers, and as their struggles were continually overlooked by a world anxious to promote the welfare of women, the stereotypical hyper-aggressive and sex-crazed man became more common and more feared.
This is the essence of “toxic masculinity.” It is emotionally stunted and obsessed with sex and violence. Toxic males seek the thrill of danger and shun responsibility and commitment. Since they lust after women but don’t want to marry or love them, their attitude towards the other sex tends to be offensively objectifying, and can easily turn misogynistic if (as often happens) they experience rejection. When a young man is unable to talk to girls, and vents his frustration by killing them instead, toxic ideals of manhood are clearly in play.
This has nothing at all to do with political alignment, and attempting to act like it does, allows us to argue about the wrong aspect of the problem and leads us down a path that will never reach valid resolutions.
Modern Americans are raised not understanding the difference between sexual and sensual. They are raised not understanding personal responsibility when it comes to sex. They are raised society with a marketing and entertainment culture that glorifies in using sex and sexuality as a tool, while also demonizing those who show interest in it at every turn.
If we want to put an end to sexual predators in our culture, we need to teach our children not be become them. We need to properly punish those who do, in order to help send the appropriate messages to others.
We need to have the right discussions and give our children the right tools to make intelligent informed decisions as both young and grown adults.
We need to force our media to improve their reporting of such incidents. As Leah Finnegan explains
The media is very bad when it comes to reporting stories of sexual misconduct against women.
And we need to understand, that you have no valid moral ground for political arguments judging sexual predators if you voted for, or supported in any way, the installation of the “Grab her by the Pussy” self-confessed sexual predator into the highest governmental office of our nation.
Language has evolved throughout history and will continue to do so far into the future.
As part of that evolution words get repurposed.
When people originally began using the word “run,’ they had no way of knowing it would eventually be used to describe the functionality of an engine, motor, or electrical appliance.
Or, that the word “gay,” which originally described being happy or carefree, would become used to indicate a person’s sexual attraction to partners of the same gender.
Sometimes, words take on a newer derogatory meaning.
During the HIV/AIDS crisis in the 1980s, “gay,” was repurposed again by many to describe something that was considered stupid, bad, or lame.
Sometimes, derogatory words are reclaimed to diminish their abusive usage.
This is seen with the incorporation of the word “gay” back into the mainstream acceptance of the LGBTQ community. People often use “LGBTQ” or “LGBTQ+” to mean everyone included in the “LGBTTTQQIAA” community. This includes Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgenders, Transsexuals, Two-Spirited people, Queers, Intersexuals, Asexuals, and Allies, as well as those who identify as Pansexual, Agender, Gender Queer, Bigender, Gender Variant, and Pangender.
Additionally, there are instances in which aspects of popular culture change the meaning of a word. In the 1970s, the phrase “Bad ass” was used to describe something as exceptionally good or tough. The 1980s shortened this further to “Bad,” redefining the way the word was used for years.
Finally, we will see conflation and/or redefinition of terms to push a political agenda.
During the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, the American government managed a massive, and remarkably successful campaign to conflate all of the widely varied definitions of Socialism and the definition of Communism into one great “Anti-American” enemy in order to pave the way for the unleashing of Corporatism on the socially democratic Capitalism that made the United States the greatest and strongest economy the world had ever seen at that point with the strongest middle class that had ever existed. The success of this propaganda effort is still clear today as those fighting against progressive reform attempt to label those fighting for it as un-American, communists, or evil socialists!
After the Civil Rights movement successfully made overt racism unacceptable, this era also brought about a much more subtle and subversive form of racial oppression by those in power. Some attempted to repackage the language of their racism behind false patriotism, while others held out Freedom of Religion as a shield for their hatred. This ushered in an era of better veiled, but more extensive systemic racism in deceptive packaging.
These various forms of language evolution happen so regularly that each year the Oxford English Dictionary adds entries for approximately 1000 new words, along with roughly 4000 new definitions, to the compendium of our language.
Now, more than ever, due to the politicizing of many important words, it has become vital to ensure we use words that truly communicate the meaning we are attempting to convey.
The disconnect in the arguments presented against progress and understanding often come from an intentional deception behind the misuse of the words used to present those arguments.
We need to evaluate the more divisive words used in these discussions.
This requires differentiating between preferential bias, bigotry, racism, and racial oppression.
People may find themselves more attracted to a person of the same skin color or even a different color as sexual partners or friends. This is preferential bias. It does not necessarily mean they hate or dislike people that don’t match what they are naturally drawn to.
If, however, a person hates people of different color and treats them in a manner less respectful than other people because of their skin color, he is displaying overt bigotry.
When bigotry progresses to the use of derogatory language to dehumanize another, or an attempt to bring harm to another – physically, mentally, emotionally, financially, etc. — because of this arbitrary criterion, we have entered the realm of racism.
Combining racism with the power to create a more sweeping practice to dehumanize and/or harm entire communities creates institutionalized racial oppression and injustice.
Often those resisting the fight to reform institutionalized racial oppression and injustice will qualify their statements with some form of “I’m not racist, but…”
What they’re really saying is:
“I don’t call those people derogatory words, I don’t burn crosses in their yards, I don’t wear a hood to lynching parties, but I don’t want those people living in my neighborhood, or going to school with my kids, and if they’re being unconstitutionally beaten or killed by police it’s probably because they deserve it.”
Clearly, these people are racist, they have just learned not to be overt, by using coded language.
These same people like to toss around the word “Thug,” because the use of words such as the “N-word” make it impossible for their metaphorical white supremacy hood to mask their racist identity.
According to the Oxford English dictionary, the original definition of “thug” is:
“A member of an organization of robbers and assassins in India. Devotees of the goddess Kali, the Thugs waylaid and strangled their victims, usually travellers, in a ritually prescribed manner. They were suppressed by the British in the 1830s.”
The same source lists the correct current definition as:
“A violent person, especially a criminal.”
Yet, as John McWhorter, associate professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University, explains; what people mean when they use it in context of talking about black people protesting injustice, or even Black people in general, is:
“A nominally polite way of using the N-word. Many people suspect it, and they are correct. When somebody talks about thugs ruining a place, it is almost impossible today that they are referring to somebody with blond hair. It is a sly way of saying there go those black people ruining things again.”
With this connotation, even community leaders and rich, successful businessmen become “disgusting, disrespectful thugs” if they dare to protest injustice, even peacefully.
Which brings us to “respect.”
Over the last year a passage has been traveling the internet that explains the misuse of this term quite well.
Sometimes people use “respect” to mean “treating someone like a person” and sometimes they use “respect” to mean “treating someone like an authority.”
And sometimes people who are used to being treated like an authority say “if you won’t respect me I won’t respect you” and they mean “if you won’t treat me like an authority I won’t treat you like a person.”
And they think they’re being fair but they aren’t, and it’s not okay.
Demanding respect while refusing to return it exposes the incredible sensitivity over the word privilege, especially regarding White Privilege.
Having privilege does not mean having a better life. It means having less barriers to a decent life than others. This privilege often manifests in ways that those benefiting don’t even realize is happening.
A White person receives a job offer because the resume of a better qualified person of color was thrown in the trash because the hiring manager didn’t like the ethnic sounding name.
A White person makes an offer on a house in a great school district, because a family of color wasn’t shown the house the previous week by a realtor attempting to maintain the “racial integrity” of the neighborhood and school.
A White person gets stopped for running a stop sign and doesn’t have to immediately begin thinking about how they’re going to survive the next few minutes if their skin color is scary enough to make the officer “fear for their safety.”
Privilege is the absence of systemic obstacles created to provide a more difficult path to success for a specific group of people. If those obstacles are designed properly, people who are not affected by them, never notice them. We have spent centuries perfecting the design.
Look at how hard some states make it for specific communities to obtain the necessary ID to vote. Intentionally placing the offices which provide the necessary documentation to receive ID as far from each other and from the community as possible, making the hours of operation of such centers difficult for low income families with multiple jobs, and who rely on public transportation, to utilize. They do all this, however; without creating a fee for the actual ID that can be identified as a poll tax.
Wisconsin pulled a similar trick by eliminating polling centers forcing voters to travel to much harder to reach locations, with limited hours of availability, and longer waiting lines designed to deter elderly, infirm voters, as well as those with small children and no financial resources for child care while voting.
Privilege is a “trigger-issue” for many White people because it forces them to admit that successful Blacks managed to become more successful despite having to overcome greater obstacles.
Black families have long taught their children it’s necessary to work twice as hard as a White person from the same neighborhood to achieve half as much. While I am not sure the ratio still holds exactly true, the concept certainly has not been invalidated, yet.
This brings us to “equality.”
Those arguing against equality use an argument that defines equality as the same in all aspects. They claim those fighting for equality want everyone to drive the same fancy cars and live in the same fancy houses.
This is not what anyone fighting for equality is attempting to achieve.
We are fighting for:
Equality of Opportunity
All people regardless of color, gender, religion, sexuality, gender identity, ethnicity, or any other arbitrary qualifier should have the same opportunity, the same obstacles or lack of them to their success. Whether they achieve their own definition of success in life should be nothing more than a matter of individual drive, motivation, persistence and ability instead of systemic blocks to prevent them from becoming successful because those who have already obtained more power don’t approve of them.
Equality of Pay
The point isn’t that everyone should be paid the same amount of money despite their type of work, quality of work, or volume of work. Only, that two people doing the same type of work, the same volume of work, the same quantity of work should not be paid less because of any of those arbitrary criteria. Assuredly, those doing better work and/or more work, should not be paid less.
Equality of Justice
No one is saying that White people should be treated worse by police, or sentenced more harshly for the crimes they commit. The argument is that People of Color should not be treated any worse than those White people that commit the same violations, nor should they be sentenced any more harshly.
The race for equality is not over when the first person or team crosses the finish line, it is only complete when the last does.
Those bringing up the rear could get there sooner if everyone would help push and pull each other forward along the way.
Our society would be far better off if those that had already reached the finish would grab a vehicle and go back to start giving rides.
Sadly though, far too many reach the end and forget all about those they left behind, even the ones that helped them along the way.
Even worse, a significant number are intentionally laying traps to hinder those behind them. They don’t have to do it by tossing around dehumanizing slang. What they’re doing is far more evil.
We must stop them.
When it comes to racism, institutional oppression, and injustice, there are no innocent bystanders.
You’re either guilty, an enabler, a victim, or you’re actively working to put an end to it to help the victims.
If you choose to fight against these things in our society and help us progress forward to a truly inclusive and cooperative society, don’t allow your opponents to redefine and reframe your message.
Finally, we must understand the vast difference between access and inclusion.
A retail business may become handicap accessible by putting a wheel chair ramp outside their front door and rails in the bathroom stall. That doesn’t make the aisles inside wide enough or clear enough for a wheel chair to traverse, or the products reachable by someone confined to a wheelchair.
Telling People of Color they can use the bus, but they have to ride in specific seats because they’re not worthy of the better ones was similar.
This is what access without inclusion is telling people:
“You can use this service, we’ll let you inside, but everyone, especially you, should clearly understand you’re not really welcome here.”
I hope you’ll join me, and that this information helps, in the fight to build a more equal and inclusive society.
One where no one must give up their ethnic identity, religion, gender identity, sexuality, or find a way to “pass” just to be welcomed.
One where we openly acknowledge our commonalities and celebrate, instead of requiring forced denial, of our differences.
A society in which the success of one person or group does not require the manufactured failure of another.
This is the fifth entry in an ongoing series exposing entrenched patterns in our societal culture that hinder our progress and what we can do to break free of them. Previous entries are still available. Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4.
It is time to take a stand. Neutrality is not an option.
Now, more than ever, if you are not part of the solution, you ARE the problem.
“First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action;” who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a “more convenient season.”
The long term aggressive societal enforcement of that negative peace is why we are still having the exact same civil rights battles today.
It is why there are actual armed Confederate Nazis walking the streets of our nation waving the war banners and screaming the rhetoric of the two greatest enemies our nation has ever faced and holding rallies to advocate for the continuance of systemic injustice, oppression, and advocating for religious and racial genocide.
It is why the stance of such people has been allowed to be elevated to acceptable modern political discourse.
It is no longer enough for anyone to be “not a racist,” we must be actively anti-racist. It is no longer enough to be “not a fascist,” we must be actively anti-fascist.
Recently, a family member of mine, in response to a message on my own social media page, commented that:
The antifa who attacked peaceful white nationalists in Berkeley are exactly as morally corrupt as those white nationalists who perpetrated violence against peaceful demonstrators on the left. To make quips that somehow the media is being unfair is disingenuous and ultimately serves to perpetuate the myth that only one side can be right. In Berkeley, the Left has successfully quashed free speech for the Right. It’s wrong.
With this statement, and the lengthy debate that followed, he continued to equate a moral equivalency with those that stand against racism, oppression, and genocide as with those that advocate for them.
Let me be perfectly clear.
There is nothing peaceful about racial, religious, gender, sexuality or any other form of enforced systemic oppression.
There is nothing peaceful about open calls for genocide.
There are no “good people” who advocate for such things.
Let me say that again.
There are no “good people” who advocate for such things.
Anyone who attempts to tell you there is has already joined their ranks.
If you make the claim, “I’m not racist,” or “I don’t support fascism” but you don’t actively and aggressively stand against those things each and every time they occur in your presence, then you are the problem. Possibly even more of a problem than those that actually are actually advocating for or committing such atrocities
Silence is acceptance. Silence is permission to continue. Silence is permission to escalate.
If you aren’t willing to have these discussions with those friends and family you’re closest to because you don’t want to make things “uncomfortable,” you will never have them in situations with acquaintances, co-workers, or strangers which will be even more uncomfortable.
Your refusal to step in and step up, signals to all the victims of such things that you are okay with what is happening to them. And that makes you as much the cause of everything they must endure as the people doing it to them.
People don’t stop oppressing others because their victims complain about it.
Abusers don’t stop abusing because their victims complain about it.
They stop when someone with equal or more power/authority makes them stop.
For people of color victimized by systemic injustice that leaves two options.
Wait for enough anti-racist Whites who already have power to actively force change in the laws and the enforcement of them, or seize enough power to do it themselves.
Legalized voter suppression, gerrymandering, and the Electoral College have made seizing that power through any legal means nearly impossible, leaving only riot/rebellion as viable options.
If Whites don’t want to see those riots and rebellions continue to escalate then they need to start using whatever the power and privileges they have attained to force the changes necessary to prevent it.
Saying we must remain civil and entertain such things as legitimate political discourse is what allows it to continue today. If we had dealt with this after the Civil War instead of embracing the Lost Cause appeasement narrative to soothe the Southern Whites after their treasonous uprising was defeated, if we had dealt with it during the Jim Crow era, if we had dealt with our own nationalism and racism after World War II, if we had dealt with it during the Civil Rights movement of the mid-20th century, we would not still be having to fight to maintain the small progress we’ve made on these issues to prevent backslide, but instead advancing as a fully integrated society striving for mutual success and betterment.
The former Naval Intelligence Officer and current political and social commentator Jim Wright had this to say just this week:
At the very beginning, the United States threw off the mantle of a theocracy to declare its own freedom.
Then, the Union of States went to war to stop a treasonous uprising of the Confederates who wanted to retain the right to enslave People of Color.
We not only joined, but led the world, in two World Wars to put an end to fascist states and their leaders.
The vast majority of the world’s military powers went to war to fight Nazi fascism and White Supremacy and put an end to the genocide and oppression they were spreading.
We set up the United Nations in order to help police the world and stand up for all those whose rights have been oppressed.
After the Civil Rights movement of the mid-20th century, the United States government began work to end segregation and work towards legislating equality of rights.
Yes, along the way, we could have and should have done much better at enforcing those equal rights. And some corrupt/flawed leadership led us astray or convinced us to turn a blind eye to where we might be needed, more than once.
Despite the missteps, we’ve prided ourselves on continuing to push forward, always.
The United States has always defined patriotic pride as fighting against the oppression of fascists, and built the world’s greatest modern military to do so.
Today, Nazis have formed a resurgence and established a power base in the White House.
And the Republican President is equating those that would stand against them as being just as bad as them.
They, along with him, are treating being “anti-fascist” as unpatriotic and using it as a derogatory term.
To make matters worse, the press is helping them by adopting their terminology in reporting the resistance to fascism, hate speech, calls for violence against our own citizenry, and armed intimidation tactics.
These modern American Nazis aren’t clashing with “antifa.”
They’re clashing with real patriotic Americans doing exactly what we are supposed to do — what we’ve always done — standing up and defending the constitutional and human rights of others, as aggressively as necessary against the fascists that would deny them.
If you are going to instigate violence and hate crimes you cannot play the victim when good people are brave enough to step up and shut you down.
If you truly believe you are a patriot, especially one who has taken a military oath of office or has sworn to protect and serve the public, you should be standing right there in line against all those that would openly call for oppression and genocide. Against all those that would incite terrorist attacks within our own borders, against our own citizens.
“I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”
While that oath of allegiance sworn by every officer and enlisted in the U.S. military is a requirement to follow every lawful order they receive, it also enforces upon them a duty to disobey an unlawful one. And to defend against all enemies, foreign and domestic, even when — especially when — that enemy turns out to be among their own ranks, even one of superior rank.
The same holds true of Police who swear to protect and serve. The oath doesn’t exempt them from protecting against criminals in uniforms abusing their power from behind the protection of the badge.
And yet, still, the conservative news outlets, and their faithful believers, are claiming that the Utah nurse, Alex Wubbles, should have abandoned her oath to protect her patients’ lives, health, and personal welfare while in her care and just complied with the unlawful and unwarranted attempt of police Detective Jeff Payne to draw blood from an unconscious victim (not a suspect). An action the officer was so desperate to take that he attempted to bribe hospital personnel with favorable treatment from his second job as an ambulance driver. He was in violation of the law, offering to put more patients at risk by bypassing other hospitals to get to them, violating the rules and conduct for both of his jobs, in order to obtain the blood of a victim of his own police chase unrelated to any aspect of the crime or suspect that led to that chase. And for her bravery, she was arrested, and detained illegally. By doing so, the officer prevented her from doing her job, prevented her from providing care to an unconscious, critically burned, car accident victim. In Utah, as it should be anywhere, interfering with a health care professional in the performance of their job is a felony assault. It should carry two counts, one for the health care worker and one for their patient.
People are telling us that instead of standing against such fascist abuse of power by criminals with badges, we should just comply, no matter the cost to ourselves or those around us for doing so.
It is the same thing they have been telling People of Color for similar incidents for years, decades, centuries. “If you don’t comply with unlawful demands of those with authority, you deserve what you get.”
To make matters far worse, the people who believe this — that maintaining peaceful order is more important than achieving a just and fair society have attained the highest offices in both our Federal and State legislatures and Executive offices. For them, there is no need for those enforcing the law to follow, or even know, the law in the process.
This nurse did absolutely everything within her power to defend her patient. We all should do no less. But those with the training and ability and authority to do more that stand by and watch instead of intervene are just as guilty.
In the case of Alex Wubbles, we can view her patient as the a representative of all victims of systemic oppression and abuse of authority. The nurse is a representative of all those “anti-fascists that would stand against them by whatever means necessary to defend themselves and others.
More importantly, the other officer accompanying Detective Jeff Payne, who stood there as an innocent bystander and allowed it all to happen instead of stepping in and using his own authority and power to defend both her and the victim from being attacked by the obviously incorrect, unacceptable. and illegal behavior of his fellow officer, is a perfect representative of the people this essay is about.
Those that choose to remain detached and allow it to happen while convincing themselves that it isn’t their fault or their responsibility to do anything about it are the people this essay is about.
Those Democratic, Liberal, and Progressive Whites who talk about systemic injustice without ever pushing, let along demanding, any legislation to correct those injustices are the people this essay is about.
Those that would prefer not to have the hard conversations with their family, friends, and coworkers, because they don’t want to make the racist oppressors that they know uncomfortable are the people this essay is about.
This is the negative peace we have allowed to become entrenched within our cultural inertia and from which we must break free.
Replacing Obama is not enough—Trump has made the negation of Obama’s legacy the foundation of his own. And this too is whiteness. “Race is an idea, not a fact,” the historian Nell Irvin Painter has written, and essential to the construct of a “white race” is the idea of not being a nigger. Before Barack Obama, niggers could be manufactured out of Sister Souljahs, Willie Hortons, and Dusky Sallys. But Donald Trump arrived in the wake of something more potent—an entire nigger presidency with nigger health care, nigger climate accords, and nigger justice reform, all of which could be targeted for destruction or redemption, thus reifying the idea of being white. Trump truly is something new—the first president whose entire political existence hinges on the fact of a black president. And so it will not suffice to say that Trump is a white man like all the others who rose to become president. He must be called by his rightful honorific—America’s first white president.
The essay concludes with this:
[T]here really is no other way to read the presidency of Donald Trump. The first white president in American history is also the most dangerous president—and he is made more dangerous still by the fact that those charged with analyzing him cannot name his essential nature, because they too are implicated in it.
It was not a slip of the tongue when, speaking about White Nationalist Confederate Nazis in Charlottesville, Donald Trump said there were good people on both sides of the situation. He even went so far as to include himself amonth those so called “Alt-Right” rally attendees by stating how terrifying it was when the counter protestors to White Nationalist Racism “Came at us.”
People of Color have always had more to lose and the electoral college by design designates their vote value to the old 3/5 of a White vote.
I do not blame a single person of color for being so disenfranchised by our system that to them it really didn’t matter between the overt racist and the quiet moderate who helped establish the school to prison pipeline and move the Democratic party right on economic issues harmful to black communities while paying lip service on social issues.
An argument could be made that by allowing Trump into office instead of Hillary brought all that closeted racism into the open to finally be dealt with once and for all.
Now more than ever Whites are forced to deal with the fact that it is not enough to be “Not a Racist” and remain quiet while others are. We are forced to either be anti-racist or racist.
If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.
Trump has eliminated the possibility of neutrality on the issue. And for those still suffering from over four centuries of systemic abuse that is a long overdue development.
His chosen party and Presidential Administration are actively taking steps to criminalize dissent and protest against them. If they succeed it is only a matter of time before their desire to expand their ability to victimize more and more groups of people to further entrench their power base.
What is the compromise between justice and oppression? What grey area between inequality and equality exists? There is none. You cannot have a little injustice and call it justice. You cannot have a little inequality and call it equality. And whenever you decide that you have the power to slow or stop justice and equality for others — you are immediately ensuring the continuation of injustice and inequality by placing yourself above those seeking justice and equality. There is a claim of superiority inherent in believing that you have the right to slow racial justice. It is a claim of superiority that white supremacy has granted you, and that you cannot accept without becoming a willing proponent of this white supremacist system.
Break free of the cultural inertia demands for the maintenance of negative peace and join the fight for justice and equality.
If you are not willing to do so, you can never again claim to be “not a racist,” or “not a fascist.”
Not taking aside against them is by default joining those advocating for the oppression and genocide of others. There is no neutrality.
Understand that your ability to choose to avoid having these confrontations while others suffer is in itself the ultimate pinnacle of unearned privilege.
Make yourself uncomfortable, make your friends and family uncomfortable. Have the hard discussions with the people you care about the most. If you don’t, who will?
Defend a stranger, if you don’t, who will?
Join the protests against fascism and the protection of systemic oppression without attempting to dictate the terms of the protest so you can be comfortable with it participating.
Choose to be part of the solution, from this day forward, or own your culpability.
Because we will make you own it.
Friend or not. Family or not.
We began with a quote from Dr. King. We’ll close with two more.
The first from an Interview with Mike Wallace in 1966:
“I contend that the cry of “Black Power” is, at bottom, a reaction to the reluctance of white power to make the kind of changes necessary to make justice a reality for the Negro. I think that we’ve got to see that a riot is the language of the unheard. And, what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the economic plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years.”
The second from “The Other America” from 1968 just prior to his assassination.
“But it is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear?…It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.”
This is the fourth in an ongoing series exposing entrenched patterns in our societal culture that hinder our progress and what we can do to break free of them.
The previous parts are available here: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. Each is a stand alone article; however, the first does give an in-depth introduction to the concept of Cultural Inertia. #Culturalinertia
In this entry we expose the widely accepted logical fallacy in our society that Winning is synonymous with Success.
Winning is one form of success; however, it is not true that all success equates to “Winning.”
Success ≥ Winning
Winning implies competition, and competition requires a loser.
For winning to equate to success in every instance we would require every success to have a corresponding loser who did not win.
To win the race you must be first, and everyone else loses. But for many, successfully completing the race in any position is a win, and with that mindset, winning (or achieving success) can be cooperative instead of competitive.
While it is appropriate to honor the achievements of winners in games and sports competitions, it is not appropriate to turn economic success or ‘success at life’ into anything but a cooperative effort.
Consider the workplace efforts that pit employees against each other so one can receive a promotion, raise or bonus instead of fostering a cooperative effort that could drive the business to enough success to provide those rewards to each of them?
The result of the former workplace culture will eventually lead to at least one or more employees spending more effort attempting to sabotage their opponent rather than expending the time and energy required to improve their own performance. When this begins to happen, the workplace morale and productivity will suffer.
This false equating of Success requiring both winners and losers is the driving force behind the ever widening economic gap in our society.
Those with necessary and vital service and labor jobs are considered losers, and therefore unworthy of even earning a living wage for their toil and time.
We see it in an educational system that pits kids against each other competing for scholarships instead of working to learn together so they can all achieve the higher education necessary to allow them all to be the best contributors to society they are capable of becoming.
We see it in systemic injustice of legalized and enforced prejudicial bigotry designed to manufacture predefined losers and enable many of its beneficiaries to feel better than those destined to lose. It allows them to feel like they’re winning, even when they cannot achieve success on their own.
It allows impoverished Whites to look at oppressed people of color — or men to look at women of their own racial designation — and think, “I may not be winning, but at least I’m beating you.”
It has become so entrenched that even our twenty four hour news channels have devolved into shouting matches between pundits instead of a clear presentation of the pertinent information.
Over the course of our history this concept of success requiring a loser has even seeped into and taken over our major branches of government.
Statesmen vs. Politicians
At some point, not so long ago in our young nation’s history, we gave up on installing true Statesmen dedicated to the success of our citizenry as our elected offices and turned to selecting self-serving and self-promoting Politicians.
For years now, it has been my belief that the ultimate downfall of our nation will come from the adoption of competitive government at the expense of cooperative leadership.
Our most recent installation of the most self-serving, self promoting, politician who cannot feel content with himself unless he is making someone else feel worse than he does at any given moment, is the pinnacle of that cultural inertia we’ve created and fostered.
Donald J. Trump, our current Republican president, can’t feel like he’s winning, no matter how much success he attains, unless everyone else loses.
And that is as much our fault as his.
We created the culture that drove him to the top.
It is imperative that we return to a concept of success defined by winning together instead of winning against each other.
Doing so will improve the quality of life and level of success for every one of us, instead of just a chosen few pre-selected by birth right.
Back in 2015, Donald Trump spoke about the Black Lives Matter protests in Ferguson and Baltimore:
“I saw them with hate coming down the street last week talking about cops and police, and what should be done to them. And that was not good. And I think it’s a disgrace that they’re getting away with it.”
This statement was brought about by his fear and hatred of people of Color — and the White people that ally with them — attempting to stand up and speak out for reform of systemic injustice, police brutality, imbalanced judicial punishments, and denial of both human and Constitutional rights of entire segments of the population by civil servants.
Militias from all over the country came to make sure that “those people” didn’t get out of hand. Police attacked them aggressively, immediately.
Mr. Trump said nothing to condemn the violent response by both citizens and police to the gathering of protesters in those situations.
In January, one week after taking office as the Republican President, his new administration put up their official White House web site. On their page titled “Standing Up for Our Law Enforcement Community,” they included this statement:
“Our job is not to make life more comfortable for the rioter, the looter, or the violent disrupter.”
In the short time since, we’ve watched his Department of Justice and Department of Education whitewash over half a century of civil rights protections from our governmental structure, and heard him tell police to be more violent with their arrests of “those people.”
Now yesterday, in the midst of a gathering of people armed with both torches and weapons, angrily descending on a city not to defend their human or Constitutional rights, but their privilege to memorialize in public spaces idols to treasonous leaders in a movement to overthrow the government of our nation to retain the right to oppress and literally own other humans as chattel slaves.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides.”
Trump said this during a short statement from his private golf club in New Jersey regarding the domestic terrorism events in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Worse, he then visibly retreated when asked to specifically condemn the violence perpetrated by the White Nationalists as well as the injuries and death created by a domestic terrorist on their behalf.
With his limited statement, his retreat, and the context of his previous statements and actions, he has set the stage for a second civil war.
He has given the political legitimacy of the Presidential Office’s consent to the false equivalency of violent KKK gatherings — David Duke was in attendance in Charlottesville and praising Trump’s support of their cause — with protest against oppression due to racial and religious bigotry.
This is how his message was received by those White Supremacists on one of their leading national websites:
“Trump comments were good. He didn’t attack us. He just said the nation should come together. Nothing specific against us.
He said that we need to study why people are so angry, and implied that there was hate…on both sides!
So he implied the antifa are haters.
There was virtually no counter-signaling of us at all.
He said he loves us all.
Also refused to answer a question about White Nationalists supporting him.
No condemnation at all.
When asked to condemn, he just walked out of the room.
Really, really good.”
All of this makes him a greater threat to the safety and security of every person on United States soil than any radical extremist from the Middle Eastern nations or fascist North Korean dictator. The fact that he continues to intentionally escalate those threats as well, just makes him even more dangerous to us all.
The only important question that remains is do you stand with the President and his support of reviving the “Lost Cause” or do you stand with your fellow citizens against an assault on human and Constitutional rights from the Oval Office?
The Lost Cause is the name commonly given to a literary and intellectual movement that sought to reconcile the traditional Southern white society to the defeat of the Confederate States of America in the Civil War. White Southerners sought consolation in attributing their loss to factors beyond their control and to betrayals of their heroes and cause. Those who contributed to the movement tended to portray the Confederacy’s cause as noble and most of the Confederacy’s leaders as exemplars of old-fashioned chivalry defeated by the Union armies not through superior military skill, but by overwhelming force. They also tended to condemn Reconstruction.
As long as those of you on the conservative right continue to ignore — or worse, support and defend — their religiously intolerant White Nationalist, Neo-Nazi, racist extremists committing hate crimes and acts of domestic terrorism, there is no legitimacy to the designator of “alternate” for the “Alt-Right.”
A wholesale embrace of this behavior is the path the Republican President decided was necessary to “Make America Great Again [For White People].”
We should strip away the deflection of the rebranding efforts and expose these violent extremists for exactly what they are; which is nothing more or less than modern Republicans.
I have no idea if you identify as Republican or not, conservative or not.
I’m just stating the fact that if you support them at all, you’re allowing them to speak for you. If you don’t approve of their messaging and methods, denounce it and stop supporting them.
Anyone who supports a party whose entire platform and path to success is a wholesale embrace of this ideology, will find they’re going to be lumped into it.
This is the modern Republican party.
Any conservatives that don’t agree with it, need to either form a new party to distinguish themselves or openly and vehemently denounce these extremists and work to purge them, their rhetoric, and their White Nationalist, Christian theocracy policies and legislation from their party.
This is not a fringe element.
This is the Republican party leadership.
This is Congress.
This is the Republican White House administration and the close inner circle of trusted advisors.
This is part three of my ongoing series. In this series of articles we are exploring the effects of what I have termed “Cultural Inertia” in our society, with the hope of helping us to recognize and overcome some of the issues that are not only holding us back but in many ways leading us in the wrong directions.
For the purposes of this series, I am using the term Cultural Inertia (#Culturalinertia) to refer to issues that we have accepted in our every day lives as norms. Norms which have become so deeply ingrained in our society that they influence our discussions of progress without our even being aware of them. One excellent example was raised recently by Jackson Katz as he showed an audience of about 400 people—students, community members, faculty, and staff—how common language used to discuss the issues is perpetuating gender violence today.
In part 1 we explored many of the high level aspects that bleed through all aspects of our society, including topics like gender norms, bigotry and racism, marriage equality, and many others. In part 2 we focused on a specific aspect of the history of the denial of racial equality.
Here, in part 3, we explore the cultural inertia embedded within the claims that educational quality in the United States is steadily and rapidly declining.
There are many aspects to this that we could talk about which include:
The school to prison pipelines.
The initiatives to defund public education in favor of private school charters in order to educate a selective audience with a restrictive curricula agenda.
Established racial and class bias in standardized testing, “gifted and talented” advanced placement selection,
Established racial and class bias in selective criteria for allocation of funds and support resources to specific school districts.
Poor pay and support for educators in specific districts leading to less qualified instructors in far too many positions.
Honestly though, many outstanding articles and essays have been written on each of those subjects, and quite a few excellent and thorough studies have been conducted and published on each of them. There is little point in rehashing them here again.
Instead, we’ll turn our attention to two much more pervasive, less discussed, and deeply intertwined societal norms that contributes to all of it without us even recognizing that we’re feeding the problems with our own accepted bias,
Abdication of Parental Responsibility
We are told that children have become so disrupted and unruly in classrooms that teachers can no longer control the educational environment. This has become so problematic that school districts have their own police departments with “resource officers” on campus, or at least at those schools considered most “at risk.”
But a good number of those troubled and disruptive students often turn out to be intelligent students who finish their work faster than their classmates and are expected to sit, bored and quiet, while waiting for others to catch up to them. They become fidgety and distracted and mislabeled as the problem themselves. The better educators recognize these kids and find ways to challenge them or keep them engaged in additional tasks to prevent disruption.
If we take those students out of the equation we are left with a much smaller number of real classroom troublemakers; those that are intentionally disruptive and sometimes violent beyond any reasonable expectation of a teacher’s ability to deal with them.
Over the course of the last several decades, especially since society began requiring two parents to work at least one full-time job each — and in the case of single parents, more — in order to receive living wages for their family, more and more parents are expecting schools to raise their kids instead of just educate them.
Many don’t even realize that they have taken this step, but when parents are more and more absent from the daily lives of their children, even if by societally enforced necessity, they are forced to have a smaller role in role modeling acceptable behavior and interaction with them.
This has placed the burden on school educators to not only handle the complex and difficult tasks of conveying knowledge and teaching critical thinking skills, but also constantly interrupting those processes to show kids how to be better humans and how to cope with social interaction conflict.
It is beyond unreasonable to expect the teachers we have to expect those educators — especially with what we pay them — to have the training and qualifications to tailor those lessons to each child’s individual learning style and life experiences every day for every student which whom they interact. This is completely exacerbated by funding cuts increase the amount of students in each classroom for teachers to reach, connect with, and educate each day.
Add to this, the fact that turning educators into disciplinarians completely undermines their ability to connect with students and earn their trust. It immediately makes them less approachable. It also deters students from being completely open with their line of questioning for fear of reproach.
The complete combination requires educators to serve as parental surrogates instead of teachers for far too much of their time, and the absorption of that role serves to undermine their entire professional purpose.
So what leads to some of these students become unruly in the first place?
Why do they have so little respect for the educators intrusted with their future?
Deconstruction of the Educational Profession
The role of an educator is the single most important profession any society has. We entrust these people to shape the minds, and sharpen the thinking skills, of the entire future of our communities, nations, and world. They are the ones that convey the necessary building blocks, and inspire the minds, of those that will become our future doctors, community leaders, scientists, and innovators, as well as of all those who will take on the vital day to day tasks that allow those people to focus completely on their jobs. The fireman, police officers, paramedics, plumbers, carpenters, nannies, day care workers, and workers in every possible service industry — all people whose professions are no less important than those others considered “more prestigious” — to the success of the society as a whole.
At some point in our lives we’ve all heard some form of the phrase “Those who can, do; those who cannot, teach.”
The underlying meaning of that simple phrase has pervaded every aspect of all the things discussed above.
In the not too distant past, a good grade school education, from kindergarten through High School graduation, was considered the key to a better future. so much so that daycares became pre-schools to prep kids for the experience instead of just places for kids to play with their peers.
But over the past few decades specifically, special interest groups have been working hard — primarily through funding of the modern iteration of the Republican party — not only to defund the educational system but to discredit and dehumanize those that choose to work within the profession.
As these special interests work at both the national and state levels to remove as much funding as possible from education they they also worked tirelessly to raise the price of obtaining a higher education out of the reach of many creating an economic disparity that provides a barrier to lower income communities, especially communities of People of Color.
This results in the elusive hope of higher education only being available to the children in those communties through two possible means, enlisting in the military in exchange for an education, or winning the gladiator lottery we call a sports scholorship.
In the most recent years , the Tea Party Republicans, especially, have been slowly stripping away at veteran benefits, including educational fund programs. This takes away even that hope of improving their lives for many of those people.
As hope diminishes, the incentive to comply does as well.
But, it still isn’t even that simple.
As the narrative pervades the news that the “American educational system is failing” even though that failure is being manufactured, the kids hear and read about it. It is reinforced as their parents discuss the narrative they’re presented with by the news. A narrative that says that more and more grossly unqualified people are looking for paychecks as teachers because they cannot do anything else. This narrative is allowed to survive by politicians, such as Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, who strip away the necessary qualifications to be teachers because they view education as unnecessary.
Now, even the Republican President and his appointed administration including appointees to the Department of Education are furthering that narrative, pulling even more funding from public schools and granting it to religious charter schools, denying science and in the case of the president, communicating in a way that would make any educated person cringe. All, while they strip away all the civil rights gains on the path to equality of opprotunity for the students we entrust to them.
Why would anyone expect children to have any respect for the authority of their educators, or the quality of the information those educators convey, in a society that is constatly working so aggressively to deconstruct the integrity of the educational system and profession?
What incentive is there for them to comply other than fear of punishment, which has never been a great human motivator to instill respect and compliance?
How Do We Fix It?
The only way to fix this is to address the core problem, aggressively.
We must elevate the profession of educators at all levels to its proper place at the highest level of of presitige in our nation.
We must pay teachers well enough to attract the best minds for every subject to the profession with the intent of passing on their collective knowledge to new generations.
We need to make teachers into heroes for our children and the schools they work within the places of hope for the children of all our communities to inspire them to want to learn everything they possibliy can from those teachers.
Doing these things, will address not only these issues, but the list of items presented at the beginning of this essay.
The quality of life of our descendents, the future of our communities, the future of our nation, and the future of our world hang in the balance.
It is time to break free of this Culural Inertia and set a new path forward.