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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Reconciliation, an upward spirial

On June 11th 2008, Canada’s Prime Minister created an historical act by apologizing on behalf of his nation for abuses and other atrocious that were committed against some 100,000 native children during the course of the country’s short history. In the past many of the nation’s aboriginal children were forced to become fully integrated into the culture of the Canada through special educational. It is believed that this and other form of sexual abuses and isolation of their children have forced many of the aboriginal groups to become victims of drug abuses and other social problems. It is not unlike similar force integration movements that were fostered on Australia’s aboriginal groups and their children by European conquerors and colonizers. That society has experienced similar social problems of alcoholism and other forms of drug abuses.

Canada closest neighbor is the USA. They too have an aboriginal population that has suffered immensely from similar forms of forced assimilation and efforts at social integration into main stream American society. In America is a special place in that it has always been the place where millions of immigrants have sort refuge and the chance of a better life. It is a challenging prospect for many, a can be even greater based one education or socio- economic as well as social support mechanisms that are in place to aid the transition. It is clearly the case that American immigrants more than most in other industrialized countries, tend to experience an easier part to assimilation especially if they are prepared to buy into the age old notion of ‘The American dream.’

Afro Americans are a unique group when it comes to this complex debate assimilation verses immigrants. Contrary to the distorted portrayals in the media, most are very conservative, law abiding, spiritual, family oriented, enterprising, and goal centered people. They are passionate in their views and with few exceptions love themselves and their culture- whatever that is. A huge paradox prevail however that can explain the dichotomous behaviors that was brought out in public in the recent Rev Writ diatribe on his beloved country. Many can be very critical about this country particularly with respect to domestic policies-but at the same time are very passionate about it and will defend its name and honor at every given opportunity. After all, who would not want to defend the name and honor of what is perceived as the greatest country on earth. In addition this country is all they know- and that is one of the paradoxes. The second one is, tied up in the question of who really is an American. How many generations must past before that honor is bestowed upon a group?

I was quite amused recently when I listened to a speech of a strong and respectable reparation proponent that wanted monies bestowed on descendants of exslaves in this country based on how many generations the family lived in the USA. So let us look at that long forgotten promise of ‘40 acres and a mule.’ In today’s language it might represent a Lexus and perhaps a million dollars. That is, if you can trace your ancestors back to the plantation. If not…… well you can imagine how complex this can be both from a logistical and political stand point.

So where does that leave this much maligned, disgruntled and neglected group called African Americans? The point is that this group has exhibited many of the same issues and deep-rooted social problems that are experienced by the several aboriginal groups that I referred to earlier. In addition they too in many cases and with few exceptions are reluctant to adopt most of the values and cultural patterns of behaviors much favored by the mainstream, dominant majority and- in their case- ancestral slave owners. The results are a very large underclass population. Many are suffering bouts of despair, anger and frustrations that have transcended several generations. Not surprisingly, some of the harshest critics to immigration of all races and classes are African Americans. The problems are that many are clueless as to why. It is surely a classic case of misplaced venom. Where there should be solidarity, divisions prevail. The greater complications are the identity crisis and other prevailing problems that are creeping in to the lives of children of Immigrants groups that belong to the Diasporas from African, Caribbean and other places across the globe. We certainly have much more work that needs to be done. ,but I am an optimist.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Crisis Management from ‘personal troubles to public issues.’

A few years ago the internationally recognized and famous basketball superstar Charles Barkley made his now famous quote of not being a role model and was applauded by many in the main stream dominant media. Sir Charles of course like many other black middle class and highly successful Americans has always poke fun and often uses irreverent humor to make statements on topical issues of the day. In this case unfortunately it was at the expense of the millions of poor, urban and less fortunate lost souls who too yearn for a small piece of the American pie that quite often can appear as a mere illusion.

No where in the history of the world, has any oppressed groups escaped their plight without the aid of a vibrant and conscious middle class that was prepared to think beyond self by giving back and providing aid and support to the masses. One of the last remnants of slavery across the Diasporas is the growing menace of female dominant single parent homes. For this reason I contend that others and need to step up and fill the gap wherever possible.

In many quarters our heroes are being attacked across the media as villains, crooks and miscreants irrespective of positions. This unfortunate position has force many in the wider society to ask “where are my……… heroes?”

It is why that one can not help but be proud of the efforts of a special Presidential candidate’s effort in trying to go where others were fearful to trespass before him. I am speaking about Mr. Obama , the son of a black immigrant father and a white Kansan mother. The reactions of main stream media are quite revealing. He has been vilified, and castigated as a mere neophyte who should relax , bide his time and garner some experience. What is intriguing to me here is that the same education that is touted as the way forward to obtaining that American dream for others is not given similar credence for a son of the soil because of what he is or might represent.

My question at this time is, if not him then who has a chance from within his ranks? Black men should also be encouraged to excel in other pursuits besides entertainment and sports. I believe that this individual is the perfect role model that is needed to display the value of service and sacrifice for a nation. I admonish others to follow up this blog with a reading of Dr. King’s 1963, ‘Letter from Birmingham jail.’ It was a call to order to the wider community to takepositive steps and recognize that the time was ready for concrete action. Today more than ever such a mindset is needed. It is imperative that some credence be given to real heroes and role models that care for all. No longer should a people be relegated to second class citizens as the world watches on in horror. The fact that a few have benefited and are fearful to stand up for true justice , economic prosperity, and political empowerment for their fellow human beings should not deter real progressive minds.

The time for action is now.

Take the House but Leave my Guns

My attention was drawn recently to another tragic news story involving the senseless murder of what appear on the surface to be an innocent 18 year old Afro -American young man and father. He was stabbed allegedly by gang members as he sat on the stoop of his apartment complex in Brooklyn New York. It is claimed that he was seen taunting these gang members for wearing a T-shirt in tribute of one of their own members that was killed last spring. What a relief! Not another shooting I thought.

I am positive that this story was not a major one as far as the main stream media was concern. After all, it was simply the life of one of those useless punks from the inner city that really counts for noting. I can almost envision the editors as they ponder the story before giving the green light to put on page 18 behind the important story of Obama’s Anti -American Pastor, Rev Wright. This editor might well be saying-‘They have no values; they do not vote, work, or make any tangible contributions to society except produce other miscreants like themselves.’

Fortunately for the young man his mom was a NYPD Cop, and this gave the story a nice twist and some credence. It was also useful for stirring up the venom and contempt of many readers. Some took it as an opportunity to lambast that other trouble maker ‘Bell guy’ that got shot in Queens NY by cops the night before his wedding. Where is that racist Sharpton now? One asked. Why is he not demonstrating, or does he only get excited when it is a Cop involve? I am sure he was a gang banger himself another claimed. How stupid can he be to taunt gang members, especially being the son of a Cop? Why is this fool a father at this early stage, and who is the idiot girl to get pregnant for him when he is not working? This prompted the young man child’s mom to jump to the defense in honor of her baby daddy. ‘Oh he was a good boy sometimes,’ she claimed even though we had our problems. ‘He loved his child,’ she exclaimed trying her best to sound convincing to no one in particular. As expected the many defensive blacks were quick to put things in perspective and condemn all these commentators as white uncaring racist that had no sympathy for the dead and a troubled mother.

I am always intrigued by these types of stories for several reasons. It is clearly revealing of several underlying problems which is affecting this great nation and requires immediate attention and rectification. It shows the ugly side of many of us today especially as the country goes through it economic hiccups and insecurities. Note the callousness and lack of empathy for the plight of others that are suffering unless they look and sound like us. At the same time such persons will spend their last dollar to aid a child suffering in Congo, Malawi, Haiti, and Myanmar or some distant land.

One should not fail to recognize the crisis that’s facing us when it comes to youth culture. There is loyalty, misplaced but genuine. Many will destroy their lives for the support of that group. There is self hatred as manifested by the ease in which a life is taken for such a dumb reason. You can rest assured that none of the Characters involved finished high school or plan to go to college. In the case of the dead man, having a mom in law enforcement did not save him. One should not conclude that so call bad kids all come from bad homes. The media one can sense salivated at the chance at channeling their energies at a story that allow them to show focus as human depravity without much accountability and attempts a providing tangible solutions. How about the question of guns and its impact on lives in inner cities – especially New York? In this case it was a Knife involved, but in hundreds more it is a gun. Life has become very cheap and the prevalence of guns has made it even more so. I look forward to the day when more young males can look forward to living long healthy lives like the late NRA President Chalton Heston.

As the economy tumbles, Americans are loosing there houses by the thousands through foreclosures, Congress is trying to pass a bail out Bill that the President has threatened to Veto. We have a choice, behave like the Ostrich and hide our heads in the sand in pretense that we are safe. On the other hand we can become mobilized and connect with progressive minds and show that we care for each other. In short, show love for our neighbor. To do otherwise can have dire consequences for us all. Please note my emphasis – us all.

The National Interest Rivisited

In 2007 I wrote my Masters thesis entitled ‘Non –Proliferation Treaty Compliance and the National Interest.’ The title is self explanatory as can be seen. It deals with two major issues that have major implications for most countries across the globe today. It dealt first with the Non Proliferation Treaty or NPT as it is usually called. This treaty as I described it was a ‘landmark multilateral arms control agreement that was brought into force in March 1970.’ It is binding and ultimate aim is that of disarmament by the nuclear weapon states. ‘It has three principal goals. Foremost among these are the curtailment of any horizontal proliferation of nuclear weapons to states without such capability, from those in possession of the technology. It further allows for the continuation of safe transfer of technology for peaceful purposes such as nuclear power facilities. The final objective is the control of further vertical proliferation of nuclear weapons.’ There is overwhelming support for this international law even in the face of weak enforcement mechanisms.

No subject I believe has dominated the airwaves, other outlets in the media, and political thoughts throughout the country and the globe as a whole since the end of the Cold- War. I found my constantly revising information and data with my advisor as events occurred. The other area of the topic deals with one that is also of great significance within Academia and political thoughts. It focused on the National Interest. Again no explanations are needed as to describe what this represents, although it can mean different things to different people. It is in simple language, whatever the policy makers or leaders of the day say it is. Generally is refers to but is not limited to foreign affairs.

It is why I pondered very much and gave serious though before choosing this subject. I knew that National Interest was going to be a central theme of my thesis, but wanted to touch on a subject that was domestic in nature. I wanted to focus on the black underclass in the USA and try to heighten interest on their plight with a view to enhancing positive change. Are you crazy asked one of my advisors as I breeched the subject with him? There is absolutely no interest in such a subject, he exclaimed. It is absolutely easy to comprehend such thinking. This is the greatest country on earth and many blacks are doing quite well. Perhaps those that aren’t are simply lazy or lack the right IQ to succeed as proposed by Prof. Charles Murray in the famous Bell Curve Theory. I wanted to explore this question as a matter of National Interest. What accounts for the obvious social, economic and political failures of Afro Americans in the USA since emancipation? Is it in the national interest to give this serious attention and study if the country is to remain a global power? Can you name another group that have sacrificed so much and contributed so unselfishly to the development of a country with so little reward?

If the USA is to hold its position in the world as a moral leader and point at other nations to do what is right for all its citizens, can it afford to do otherwise? Who needs to lead the drive and effort towards change? I could not help but recall the comments on a prospective female leader and Presidential contender, Senator Hilary Clinton to a question on the role and importance of politicians’ vs prudent activism by a vibrant and caring civil society. This was in the persons of President Lyndon B. Johnson and Dr Martin Luther King. She was partially correct when she claimed that no meaningful changes were ever made Vis-a –Vis King’s dream until or without LBJ’S political legislative actions.

Two Americas-equally divided.

Former Senator and Presidential contender John Edwards campaigned on the theme of eradicating poverty and an attempt to close the divide between the ‘two Americas,’ as he called it- rich verses poor. Very brave words from a millionaire lawyer that came up from simple means as he claimed. What the senator is alluding to is an America that many are unaware of. Namely, that million of their fellow human beings are struggling daily, while small elite live wonderfully. The plight of the suffering have been left unreported for the simple reason that to do so can work against the interest of those more mindful to preserving a fictitious image. Instead one repeatedly witness a complicit media that fails to recognize its responsibilities- namely to tell the news by highlighting the facts, and let the scripts fall where they may. I often wonder whether it is justified to view criticisms of policies, behaviors, opinions or ways of life in the negative light that frequently occurs throughout. The war is going terrible but one dare not say so for fear of being labeled as unpatriotic. The economy is in shambles, but a resounding silence is the result again due to fear of repercussions. Unequal justice and huge levels of human rights abuses are occurring daily at our prisons and across states yet not much is said. Who one might ask are the beneficiaries of such actions?

Conservative and liberal judges, reporters, editors, and publishers are the norm. Likewise, politicians and the nation as a whole are divided along similar ideological lines. This often leads to much finger pointing, gridlock, pandering, inequities which have all affected the stature of the country globally. Even schools today are clamoring for rectification of perceived imbalance of liberal as opposed to conservative Professors at Universities and colleges today. Let us view closely and see where this corruption of education may lead.

The bigger question now is how to transcend what might simply be electioneering debates, by prospective candidates to concrete policies by leaders serious about bridging the divide when in office? The dreadful scenes in the aftermath of the Katrina hurricane disaster shocked the conscience of the nation recently as horrid images were reflected on the televisions daily. The consequence of poor infrastructure and dreadful social policies combined with inept leadership reminiscent of a fourth world nation became very obvious. It is impossible to believe but true that the hordes of people were described as refugees by some reporters to the dismay of a few. It is not the sort of depiction that is expected of the sole superpower to emerge in the aftermath of Cold War at the ‘end of history.’ Poverty is a reality and cannot always be blamed on immigrants, outsourcing, globalization, environmentalism and laziness of a phantom minority. Governments, corporations, and civil societies must be prepared to work closely to solve social and economic problems aimed at eradicating poverty both domestically and internationally once and for all. Where is that media that I once read should be the ‘light that shine in a dark corner?’ Busy concentrating on ideological divisions and the bidding's of friendly elite counterparts it is fair to guess.

Moral leadership on Fundamental Human Rights

Eighty years ago Alabama counties passed a law that allowed their Sheriffs to feed prisoners with a mere $1.75 a day allowance. Today the same is in operation .These Sheriffs are then permitted to augment their salaries with the residue. According to one writer a systematic practice of “Depression-style frugality and reliance on such things as day-old bread, cut-rate vegetables and cheap inmate labor explains why a profit can be earned by feeding men and women what amounts to less than the price of a Coke and a bag of Fritos for an entire day. One sheriff was quoted as saying that “these people eat better here than they eat on the street, and they eat three times a day.”[1] In case you did not recognize, Alabama is one of the fifty states In the USA. Then perhaps you are one of the millions of citizens that believe that prisoners are getting what they deserve and any form of inhumane treatment is good for miscreants. Just to refresh your memory, Article 5 of the declaration of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights reads as follows: “No one shall be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”[2]

A wonderful and generous and caring American woman was instrumental in getting this declaration passed while serving as a US delegate and Human Rights Commissioner. She was Eleanor Roosevelt .Without here there might be no UN as we know it today , no Israel, No new deal , justice for blacks via the civil rights movement , nor the vibrant feminist movement . She was a first lady for 12 years during her famous husband reign, but was referred to as “First Lady of the World” by President Truman, in tribute to her human rights accomplishments. Most importantly, she was honored by Gallup’s list of widely Admired People as one of the most admired persons of the 20th century. Her actions I am sure also brought much goodwill for America as a country, as it was seen as a champion, defender, and model for peoples across the globe that were threatened by racial, economic and religious divides. Where other powers failed in their moral obligations to defend the proclaimed universal principles –first enshrined in the UDHR, the United States was seen as a beacon of hope for justice, fairness and equality for all.

Fast forward to today, and we noticed many more states similar to Alabama where the ‘Prison Industrial Complex’ has reared its ugly head. For every 100 in the American population, one is incarcerated. This nation has less than five percent of the world’s population, but almost one fourth of the world’s prisoners. [3] According to data by the International Center for Prison Studies at King’s College London., the United States has 2.3 million criminals behind bars. This is in essence more than any other nation.[4]The question that I wish to consider now is how are these prisoners treated while away from the eyes of the prying public, families, lawyers and hidden digital camera? We tend to be aggrieved at the actions of a few rouge soldiers in Abu Ghraib. Many of us were prepared to offer some semblance of latitude for our hard working soldiers as they stress struggled to protect the nation from the devious eyes and might of foreign terrorist elements. Are we prepared to be so understanding when it occurs at home, especially if it’s towards a close friend or relative? I am doubtful. How about the disparity in justice that is levied along racial lines?

The following are findings of Human Rights Watch on the state of prisons and Prisoners in the USA today: In American prisons today, wanton staff brutality and degrading treatment of inmates occur across the country with distressing frequency. A federal judge in 1999 concluded that Texas prisons were pervaded by a “culture of sadistic and malicious violence.” In 1995, a federal judge found a stunning pattern of staff assaults, abusive use of electronic stun devices guns, beatings, and brutality at Pelican Bay Prison in California, and concluded the violence “appears to be open, acknowledged, tolerated and sometimes expressly approved” by high ranking corrections officials. In recent years, U.S. prison inmates have been beaten with fists and batons, stomped on, kicked, shot, stunned with electronic devices, doused with chemical sprays, choked, and slammed face first onto concrete floors by the officers whose job it is to guard them. Inmates have ended up with broken jaws, smashed ribs, perforated eardrums, missing teeth, burn scars—not to mention psychological scars and emotional pain. Some have died. Both men and women prisoners—but especially women—face staff rape and sexual abuse. Correctional officers will bribe, coerce, or violently force inmates into granting sexual favors, including oral sex or intercourse. Prison staff have laughed at and ignored the pleas of male prisoners seeking protection from rape by other inmates. When Florida inmate Frank Valdez died in 1999, every rib in his body was broken, his corpse bore the imprint of boot marks, and his testicles were badly swollen; guards admitted having struggled with him, but denied they had used excessive force. They claimed most of his injuries had been “self-inflicted.” In Maricopa County, Arizona, a sheriff who dresses male jail inmates in pink underwear introduced live “jail cam” broadcasts on the Internet in 2000. Three cameras covered the holding and searching cells of the jail, including shots of strip searches, inmates bound in “restraint chairs,” and even, for a while, unobstructed views of women using the toilet. The broadcasts ended up being copied onto web porn sites.

Even detained children and youth are not immune from staff brutality and abuse. They too are kicked, beaten, punched, choked, and sexually preyed upon by adult staff. The Maryland State Police recently filed criminal assault charges against staff at a youth facility in Maryland because of an incident in which one guard restrained a youth while the three others kicked him and punched him in the face. In January 2004, the U.S. Department of Justice reported on terrible conditions at Arizona’s juvenile detentions centers, including sexual abuse of the children by staff members (and fellow inmates) that occurs “with disturbing frequency” and a level of physical abuse that is ”equally disturbing.” [5]

These are frightening but true statistics. They are not meant to cast blame on any one , but merely to shock the sensibilities and conscience of good people to do something so as to alleviate the plight of suffering and often times unfortunate. As we observe the media in its daily attempts to address the issue of human rights, let us develop a more skeptical eye and ask ourselves why more attention is not placed on this anomaly as reflected by the prison industrial complex. As we witness the different attitudes to justice is it is reflected by race and white color as opposed to blue color crimes. When next you see a though talking Governor, Senator , Congressman or high -end celebrity desperately try to get some preferential treatment via a slick well paid lawyer, ask yourself if that treatment is accorded to a lower, middle class ,or immigrant person with limited resources at their disposal. Remember we all have a moral responsibility to speak out, in an effort to eradicate all form of human right abuses. The world watches on , that much you can count on.






--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[1] JAY REEVES, Alabama sheriffs feed inmates on $1.75 a day, Associated Press Writer, Fri May 16, 7:01 PM ET

[2] Article 5 Universal Declaration of Human Rights,Pg.6, UN DPI, December 10, 1948.

[3] Warren Mass, U.S. Leads World in Prison Population,http://www.jbs.org/trackback/7846



[4]http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/04/23/america/23prison.php?page=3

[5] Jamie Fellner, Esq., Prisoner Abuse: How Different are U.S. Prisons?, http://www.hrw.org/english/docs/2004/05/14/usdom8583.htm

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Uniondale New York, NY, United States
Speaking truth,as one major prerequisite, to concrete justice. A novel form of social advocacy.

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