Friday, July 24, 2009

On self-worth, fake racism, and the black V.I.P.

Last year, on a radio talk show, New York City's former Mayor Ed Koch voiced a cliche that's near and dear to the hearts of many blacks. I was reminded of this cliche while hearing a version of it from a young white man interviewed in Craig Bodeker's documentary, "A Conversation About Race." The man in Bodeker's film remarked that he had seen his black friends "struggle" with racism. He had no details to offer about the nature of said "racism," but he expressed dismay over something either perceived, or told to him. [See my review of the Bodeker film here.]

Similarly, Ed Koch had claimed that in this terrible society of America, "all blacks" face racism "every day." According to Koch, from the minute a black leaves his home in the morning to go to work, he encounters ugly, persistent racism, which goes on throughout the day. My ears perked up, because I wanted to know in just which city or state or region were blacks being tormented openly and on a daily basis. Mind you, he was talking about the year 2008. Of course, he, like the young man in the Bodeker film, did not offer any examples of this horrendous treatment.

My instinct was to get in touch with Koch and challenge him to pick any black man, and go off to work with him, spending the entire day on his job, as well as remaining with him in the evening. I would have liked for Koch to come back on radio and report on the terrible, racist encounters suffered that day by that black man.

Of course, we know that no such encounters are occurring on a daily basis. The use of the term "racism" does not mean today what it meant to a 1930s black sharecropper, whose choices were circumscribed by realities that were out of his hands. These blacks cannot pin down specific instances of meaningful, substantive bias, that is, bias that negatively affects their daily livelihood.

The black who whines about facing a "struggle" is not prevented from going about his business, or living his daily life as he chooses. The society he now lives in places no life-threatening obstacles in his path. The degree to which he can prosper is determined by the limitations of his own natural abilities, and vicissitudes of his family, social circle, and upbringing – as is true for everyone else. The very real racism that prevented that 1930s sharecropper from expanding his choices in life is the only type of racism that matters.

However, there are clever blacks who insist on invoking the spirit of that earlier scenario and hyping the "pain of racism," a disposition that a great many whites eagerly buy into. The goal of such blacks is to keep whites preoccupied forever with the Black Cause, while expanding the scope of just what constitutes "racism." That scope, of course, must encompass the very thoughts in the heads of others.

Whenever I insist to some complainer that specific instances of racism be cited, he usually stammers and talks in generalities. "Well, you know what I mean," he will intone, as if I'm supposed to fill in the blanks. What he means is that he takes offense at any form of rejection. Although all human beings face personal rejection at the hands of others, these blacks want exemption from such uncertainties in life. They want no leeway for personal discrimination against themselves.

Recently, a commenter on a popular blog expressed that lame black mantra, "until-you-have-walked-in-my-shoes," by claiming that the white commenters in the forum, being people "who have never experienced racism on a daily basis since the time you were a child," could not understand his anguish. Racism, every day, from childhood right into adulthood? Are we really supposed to buy that? And then he really poured it on, by claiming that this racism "makes your heart start to race, your blood start to boil, and tears start to form in your eyes."

I suspect that if we were to probe deeper into this man's grievances, we would discover some sticky stuff going on here. Does he cry whenever he finds himself rejected socially by a party or parties with whom he wished to engage? Does social rejection send him into mourning? Or, as in the case cited below, from a black blog, might he harbor a host of insecurities that only competent practitioners in the psychological counseling field could deal with adequately?

On the blog, Within the Black Community, black blogger "Constructive Feedback" writes about the black actor Boris Kodjoe, who complained about a delivery man, who made him feel "dirty and black," at the door of Kodjoe's mansion in Atlanta. Because it appeared from the delivery man's attitude that he did not believe Kodjoe to be the owner of such a grand house, this apparently irked Kodjoe, so much so that he talked about it in public. Is this millionaire actor admitting that his own self-worth rests on the basis of what he thinks others are thinking about him – even a minimum wage delivery man? Constructive Feedback observes:

This wealthy Black man's self-worth is still subject to confiscation by the lowliest of service men who ring his door bell ... The only thing at play is the pathology that is resident in the minds of Mr. Kodjoe and other African-Americans who hand over their own self-worth for someone else's blessing. We have people who wear their self-worth on their shirt collar, expecting everyone to validate them about their insecurities. They project these insecurities as "racial assaults" upon our entire race.

It was never put better. This is a subject that blacks discuss all the time, but most whites are fearful of contemplating. When the approval craved is not forthcoming, the cry of "racism" against the entire race goes out. And when a degree of deference cannot be extracted from a white especially, as in Professor Henry Louis Gates's interaction with Officer James Crowley, this is another "assault" on the black community. Constructive Feedback continues:

It is clear that the expectation was for the police to show due deference to this accomplished BLACK professor of great stature at this elite White school. The fact that his outbursts were responded to by the group of police men, just as they would have done to those of a less established person, the peanut gallery feels that this Black man was not treated fairly, per his position.

The blogger then facetiously asks, about this prestigious Very Important Person,

Why didn't they know who Dr. Gates was when they confronted him? Didn't they see him on television with Oprah and Chris Rock, as they connected with their ancestry in Africa from so long ago?

And, for those who understand the reference to the haughty, 19th century Harvard-educated W.E.B. Du Bois, he adds, "I detect some W.E.B. DuBois-esque 'Talented Tenth' elitism among the commentators. Prof. Gates, director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute, appears to have taken on some of the airs of his mentor."

What a mockery Gates's behavior turns out to be, when we look at the pressure put upon black athletes and entertainers to behave respectfully, so they might be role models to the young. Yet here is this highly touted, prestigious Harvard Professor, who expels coarse vulgarities to a police officer, even spewing out the "Yo' Mama" insult, like a common street thug, carrying on like the proverbial "Crazy Nigger." Are we to believe that such behavior is not characteristic of this black V.I.P., this Distinguished Scholar?

Constructive Feedback asks just when will blacks feel they have enough societal control that they can move on and finally deal with the pressing realities that "are actually killing African-Americans." The answer to his question was given long ago.

Black elites, those who have always had the power and the resources to ameliorate much of the suffering within the black community, made it clear from as early as the 19th century that their interests will always rest outside the group, even as they exploit the theme of "race" to personally elevate themselves. You need look no further than Henry Louis Gates and the entire entourage of professionals and academics, who covet white society's credentials in their striving to be socially acceptable. Some of the earliest observations and commentaries by both blacks and whites about the American Negro personality still hold up (see especially Harold Cruse).

Yet, even in these venues among whites that they have chosen, these elites remain in a combative stance, always pushing the envelope in a need to prove who they are. They have no more concern today about the genuine needs of the black masses than did their fathers and grandfathers. And, if given the chance, these elites would just as eagerly oppose Booker T. Washington for his temerity in insisting on putting the welfare of the masses first. So, the answer to the rhetorical question as to when blacks will move on and deal with the real stuff is, Never.
• • •

Related links:

The Proper Means of Elevating Ourselves (Martin Delany, 1852)
Booker T. Washington: Legacy Lost
Charles Smiley: Going Against the Grain
S. B. Fuller: Master of Enterprise
Read more!

Sunday, July 05, 2009

The preacher who would be "kingmaker"

As the preacherman Rev. Boise Kimber said, referring to the white firefighters, "They just have too many vowels in their names." Blatant and shameless, this obnoxious man felt perfectly confident in attempting to thwart the promotions of white firemen in New Haven, Connecticut, simply because of their race. Supposedly this was the type of bias that those 1960s civil rights crusaders strove to end. In the name of justice for blacks, all such discrimination was to be ended. Of course, it's been clear for years that genuinely equal treatment was never what these crusaders had in mind.

Following are excerpts from Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito's concurring opinion in the Ricci v. DeStefano case. In a 5-4 Decision, the Court ruled in favor of the firemen. Alito has done us all a service by offering a candid, brutal account of the goings-on behind the scenes, by an interfering black preacher and the Mayor of New Haven.
• • •

I write separately only because the dissent [by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg], while claiming that “the Court’s recitation of the facts leaves out important parts of the story,” provides an incomplete description of the events that led to New Haven’s decision to reject the results of its exam. ...

When an employer in a disparate-treatment case under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 claims that an employment decision, such as the refusal to promote, was based on a legitimate reason, two questions—one objective and one subjective—must be decided. The first, objective question is whether the reason given by the employer is one that is legitimate under Title VII. If the reason provided by the employer is not legitimate on its face, the employer is liable.

The second, subjective question concerns the employer’s intent. If an employer offers a facially legitimate reason for its decision but it turns out that this explanation was just a pretext for discrimination, the employer is again liable. ...

As initially described by the dissent, the process by which the City reached the decision not to accept the test results was open, honest, serious, and deliberative. But even the District Court admitted that “a jury could rationally infer that city officials worked behind the scenes to sabotage the promotional examinations because they knew that, were the exams certified, the Mayor would incur the wrath of [Rev. Boise] Kimber and other influential leaders of New Haven’s African-American community.”

This admission finds ample support in the record. Reverend Boise Kimber, to whom the District Court referred, is a politically powerful New Haven pastor and a self-professed "kingmaker." On one occasion, “in front of TV cameras, he threatened a race riot during the murder trial of the black man arrested for killing white Yalie Christian Prince. He continues to call whites racist if they question his actions.” ...

Reverend Kimber’s personal ties with seven-term New Haven Mayor John DeStefano stretch back more than a decade. In 1996, for example, Mayor DeStefano testified for Rev. Kimber as a character witness when Rev. Kimber—then the manager of a funeral home—was prosecuted and convicted for stealing prepaid funeral expenses from an elderly woman and then lying about the matter under oath. “Reverend Kimber has played a leadership role in all of Mayor DeStefano’s political campaigns, [and] is considered a valuable political supporter and vote-getter.”

According to the Mayor’s former campaign manager (who is currently his executive assistant), Rev. Kimber is an invaluable political asset because “[h]e’s very good at organizing people and putting together field operations, as a result of his ties to labor, his prominence in the religious community and his long-standing commitment to roots.”

In 2002, the Mayor picked Rev. Kimber to serve as the Chairman of the New Haven Board of Fire Commissioners (BFC), “despite the fact that he had no experience in the profession, fire administration, [or] municipal management.” In that capacity, Rev. Kimber told firefighters that certain new recruits would not be hired because "they just have too many vowels in their name[s]." [Hartford Courant, June 13, 2002] After protests about this comment, Rev. Kimber stepped down as chairman of the BFC, but he remained on the BFC and retained “a direct line to the mayor.”

Almost immediately after the test results were revealed in “early January” 2004, Rev. Kimber called the City’s Chief Administrative Officer, Karen Dubois-Walton ... Dubois-Walton and Rev. Kimber met privately in her office because he wanted “to express his opinion” about the test results and “to have some influence” over the City’s response. ...

[The city's two Fire Chiefs], Chief William Grant (who is white) and Assistant Fire Chief Ronald Dumas (who is African-American) ... believed that the test results should be certified. Petitioners allege, and the record suggests, that the Mayor and his staff colluded “sans the Chief[s]” because “the defendants did not want Grant’s or Dumas’ views to be publicly known; accordingly both men were prevented by the Mayor and his staff from making any statements regarding the matter.” ...

The next day, on January 13, 2004, Chad Legel, who had designed the tests, flew from Chicago to New Haven ... “Legel outlined the merits of the examination and why city officials should be confident in the validity of the results.” But according to Legel, Dubois-Walton was “argumentative” and apparently had already made up her mind that the tests were “discriminatory.” Again according to Legel, “[a] theme” of the meeting was “the political and racial overtones of what was going on in the City.” Legel came away from the January 13, 2004 meeting with the impression that defendants were already leaning toward discarding the examination results.

On January 22, 2004, the Civil Service Board (CSB or Board) convened its first public meeting. Almost immediately, Rev. Kimber began to exert political pressure on the CSB. He began a loud, minutes-long outburst that required the CSB Chairman to shout him down and hold him out of order three times.

Reverend Kimber protested the public meeting, arguing that he and the other fire commissioners should first be allowed to meet with the CSB in private.

Four days after the CSB’s first meeting, Mayor DeStefano’s executive aide sent an e-mail to Dubois-Walton, [Tina] Burgett [director of Human Resources], and [Thomas] Ude [the city's Corporate Counsel]. The message clearly indicated that the Mayor had made up his mind to oppose certification of the test results (but nevertheless wanted to conceal that fact from the public). ...

On February 5, 2004, the CSB convened its second public meeting. Reverend Kimber again testified and threatened the CSB with political recriminations if they voted to certify the test results. ...

One of Rev. Kimber’s “friends and allies,” Lieutenant Gary Tinney, also exacerbated racial tensions before the CSB. After some firefighters applauded in support of certifying the test results, “Lt. Tinney exclaimed, ‘Listen to the Klansmen behind us.’” Tinney also has strong ties to the Mayor’s office. ...

As part of its effort to deflect attention from the specifics of the test, the City relied heavily on the testimony of Dr. Christopher Hornick, who is one of Chad Legel’s competitors in the test-development business. Hornick never “stud[ied] the test [that Legel developed] at length or in detail,” but Hornick did review and rely upon literature sent to him by Burgett to criticize Legel’s test. ... Hornick also relied on newspaper accounts—again, sent to him by Burgett—pertaining to the controversy surrounding the certification decision.

Although Hornick again admitted that he had no knowledge about the actual test that Legel had developed and that the City had administered, the City repeatedly relied upon Hornick as a testing “guru” and, in the CSB Chairman’s words, “the City ke[pt] quoting him as a person that we should rely upon more than anybody else the City repeatedly relied upon Hornick as a testing “guru” and, in the CSB Chairman’s words, “the City ke[pt] quoting him as a person that we should rely upon more than anybody else ...

Dubois-Walton later admitted that the City rewarded Hornick for his testimony by hiring him to develop and administer an alternative test. See also id., at 562a-563a: (Hornick’s plea for future business from the City on the basis of his criticisms of Legel’s tests).

At some point prior to the CSB’s public meeting on March 18, 2004, the Mayor decided to use his executive authority to disregard the test results—even if the CSB ultimately voted to certify them. Accordingly, on the evening of March 17th, Dubois-Walton sent an e-mail to the Mayor, the Mayor’s executive assistant, Burgett, and attorney Ude, attaching two alternative press releases.

The first would be issued if the CSB voted not to certify the test results; the second would be issued (and would explain the Mayor’s invocation of his executive authority) if the CSB voted to certify the test results. Half an hour after Dubois-Walton circulated the alternative drafts, Burgett replied: “[W]ell, that seems to say it all. Let’s hope draft #2 hits the shredder tomorrow nite.”

Soon after the CSB voted against certification, Mayor DeStefano appeared at a dinner event and “took credit for the scu[tt]ling of the examination results.” ...

In the event that the CSB was not persuaded, the Mayor, wielding ultimate decision making authority, was prepared to overrule the CSB immediately. Taking this view of the evidence, a reasonable jury could easily find that the City’s real reason for scrapping the test results was not a concern about violating the disparate-impact provision of Title VII but a simple desire to please a politically important racial constituency. ...

I assume the dissent would agree—there are some things that a public official cannot do, and one of those is engaging in intentional racial discrimination when making employment decisions. The second point concerns the dissent’s main argument—that efforts by the Mayor and his staff to scuttle the test results are irrelevant because the ultimate decision was made by the CSB. ...

The dissent makes much of the fact that members of the CSB swore under oath that their votes were based on the good-faith belief that certification of the results would have violated federal law. But the good faith of the CSB members would not preclude a finding that the presentations engineered by the Mayor and his staff influenced or caused the CSB decision.

The least employee-friendly standard asks only whether “the actual decision maker” acted with discriminatory intent, and it is telling that, even under this standard, summary judgment for respondents would not be proper. This is so because a reasonable jury could certainly find that in New Haven, the Mayor—not the CSB—wielded the final decision making power.

After all, the Mayor claimed that authority and was poised to use it in the event that the CSB decided to accept the test results. If the Mayor had the authority to overrule a CSB decision accepting the test results, the Mayor also presumably had the authority to overrule the CSB’s decision rejecting the test results. In light of the Mayor’s conduct, it would be quite wrong to throw out petitioners’ case on the ground that the CSB was the ultimate decision maker. ...

Petitioners were denied promotions for which they qualified because of the race and ethnicity of the firefighters who achieved the highest scores on the City’s exam.
• • •

Read Justice Alito's complete concurring opinion with all citations here.

See also:

On Race, the Slog Goes On

High court calls it like it is

Politico Arena: reactions to Ricci decision
Read more!

Saturday, July 04, 2009

The Fourth of July and True American Patriots

What would we do without those wonderful, flag waving "conservative patriots," who teach the rest of us just what "patriotism" means? Recently, we were subjected to eight long years of preachments from this crowd, who are still at it, via their dissembling talk show hosts and noxious websites. And now, their "tea parties."

Did you know that the mark of a True American, that is, a Real Patriot, is evidenced by his/her devotion to the "pro-life" message? That's the message that informs us that life is important for a 19-week-old fetus, but not especially important for a 19-year-old boy, whose dispensable body can be blown to pieces in unnecessary military conflicts concocted by deceiving politicians, and ardently supported by True American Patriots.

So, you thought that patriotism had a direct connection to the Founders' Constitution and its protections? Not according to these True American Patriots. They have a different version of what happened back there in the 18th century. Due process? Well, that depends ... Free speech? Well, that depends, too ... Whether you deserve rights as a citizen depends a lot on just what notions you carry in your head. Do you harbor the "correct" notions?

According to these zealots, we Americans are the Exceptional People, with a license from God to commit whatever acts of calumny we deem necessary to keep us "safe." The True American Patriots, those loyalists of the War Party, are now worried that we might not have enough foreign battles to keep our military occupied in the coming years. What could be more un-American than not being engaged in war on somebody else's shores at any given time? After all, isn't this what the Fourth of July is all about?

True American Patriots will become unhinged, if they cannot find enough military altercations in which to kill off more 19-year-old youths. As Pat Buchanan once put it, after the 2007 skirmish with Russia over Georgia's invasion of Ossetia, "Had George W. Bush prevailed, U.S. Marines could be fighting Russian troops over whose flag should fly over a province of 70,000 South Ossetians who prefer Russians to Georgians."

You see, any excuse for a battle will do. Whatever it takes to get involved in just about any conflict in the world, you can be sure the War Party will be champing at the bit to do so. Jeffrey Tucker wisely observes, "The war party and American conservatism are interchangeable and inseparable. They are synonyms." Well, isn't this what the Fourth of July is about?

Along with the recasting of "patriotism," these True American Patriots have redefined Christianity, and have made it unrecognizable to earlier Christians. In the True American Patriot's version, it is your attitude towards the Fetus that unlocks the door to salvation, or not. Sending your 19-year-old son to die in Iraq for nothing is acceptable, but ignoring the "rights" of an unknown fetus in an unknown belly of an unknown woman will insure your eternal damnation. Dead son, you lose nothing. Dead Fetus, you lose everything. This is the New Christianity.

True American Patriots see themselves as the only credible caretakers of Democracy, and those who reject such hubris are denounced as socialists and communists and fascists. Of course, ordinary people among the misguided and unenlightened might consider the love of war the ultimate fascistic mentality. Milton Mayer who, along with many others, urged against U.S. involvement in WWII, viewed war itself as a form of fascism. He wrote, "Democracy is an order in which the state exists for men. Fascism is an order in which men exist for the state. In no condition to which men submit do they exist for the state so completely as in war." There is no period in which these True American Patriots love the state more than when it is at war. Yet, isn't that what the Fourth of July is about?

These dogmatists teach that it is "liberal" to be opposed to war and, therefore, un-American to question government policy when the state sends you off to die. In fact, it's unpatriotic to refuse the state's command to torture other human beings. God's commands over man's commands? Not likely with today's claque of Christians. What conscience?

Laurence Vance asks where is the outrage from the evangelical community over torture, over the invasion of Iraq, over the thousands of dead Iraqis, over the thousands of American soldiers "who died for a lie." Where is the outrage over the destruction of that which conservatives once touted as "core American values" due to an evil, misguided foreign policy? What outrage? Our True American Patriots, in the midst of the culture of death that they have helped to spawn, are too busy boasting over how much they treasure "life" – while celebrating the Fourth of July.
Read more!