Some time ago, a preview of this book appeared in various places around the internet; reddit, Twitter, and a few others. I encountered it, and knew at once that this is a book I would need to own and read. And I was right.
The excerpt reads as follows:
My husband plays the trumpet, which is a sort of loud pretzel originally invented to blow down the walls of fucking Jericho and, later, to let Civil War soldiers know it was time to kill each other in a river while you chilled eating pigeon in your officer’s tent twenty miles away, yet somehow, in modern times, it has become socially acceptable to toot the bad cone inside your house before 10:00 a.m. because “it’s your job” and your wife should “get up.” What a world! If one was feeling uncharitable, one might describe the trumpet as a machine where you put in compressed air and divorce comes out, but despite this—despite operating a piece of biblical demolition equipment inside the home every bright, cold morning of his wife’s one and only life—the trumpet is not the most annoying thing about my husband.
West, Lindy, The Witches Are Coming
Once I had read the book, I felt morally obligated to leave a review at Amazon, if for nothing else than to give this beautiful collection of essays a signal boost. This is a cross-post of that review, with a bit of amplification.
A witty, acerbic, and irreverent look at sexism in the 21st Century (and other critical issues that are crying out to be addressed).
Make no mistake, this book will resonate with women… but it’s a book for men. We as those who hold supreme privilege in our society by simple roll-of-the-dice virtue of having a Y chromosome cannot be allies in the fight for gender equality (indeed, for human equality) – we must be the frontline warriors.
We can no more expect women to overcome misogyny than we can expect people of color to overcome racism. The problem is not them; the problem is us. Until people like Donald J. Trump and those who think like him can be rendered irrelevant or educated (and doing either will be an Augean task, if even possible), writers and influencers like Ms. West can continue to publish and speak and agitate, but they must become the rear guard. It is up to men to take up the cause and win the war.
At the age of 70, I do not expect to see a bloodsoaked fatal flawless victory in my lifetime, but battles are being won.
The #MeToo movement and its consequences are just one example. But that’s still a sortie in the war, waged by the oppressed minority. Do you wonder why there are so many “strident” feminists out there?¹ It’s because their stridency is the moral equivalent of the Watts riots and so many subsequent outbreaks of violence by people of color who have been enslaved, oppressed, lynched, sidelined, and minimized for over 400 years. Read up on history and you’ll see that women have been waging a battle for equality for just as long, if not longer.
Men, buy this book and read it. Then think about it, and read it again. Despite its biting humor and delicious writing, it’s not a book to entertain or amuse. It should be a textbook for anyone who wants to understand why the problem of misogyny is so rampant, and what needs to be done moving forward.
I’ve written about racism before. For all the talk about Critcal Race Theory, (an academic theory that is not being taught in K-12 schools, no matter what Tucker Carlson may be telling you), white America needs to face the fact that racism is real, and rampant, and deeply ingrained in our society.
But in all honesty, there should be a Critical Gender Theory as well. Donald Trump and his “locker room talk,” Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, and so many others bear not mute but loud and blatant testimony that for far too many men, women are still less-than: objects to be used, property to be managed. Ms. West’s book offers few real solutions to the issue. She’s loud and funny and sharp and biting, and shows in delicious prose where our society has gone wrong and how much there is to do, but in the end analysis it will be up to the faction in power (read: men) to make the difference.
Fixing Hollywood and the media would be a good place to start, but I honestly don’t hold out much hope for that in the short run. As long as there are dollars to be made by depicting women as pliant sex toys in drama and advertising, nothing short of the zombie apocalypse will get entertainment and advertising moguls to wise up.
In the meantime: Men, read this book. It’s not just the pathetic moanings of a whiny liberal feminist; it’s an unashamed accounting of what women in general have to face on a daily basis. If you, by the grace of God, get a sense that maybe you’re part of the problem even without wanting to be, this is a good place to start as I mentioned in my other post on racism:
It won’t be easy, but it has to be done.
(And if you care about the climate and the impending destruction of our global environment which we may not have any way to reverse, you should read this book as well.)
The Old Wolf has spoken.
¹ You might also be interested in watching Ms. West’s Shrill, a 2019 Emmy Award-nominated drama about a woman who seeks out ways to change her life without changing her body.
Found this at a Facebook group dedicated to outstanding illustration.
The picture is beautiful. The colonialist sentiment, not so much. But that was Kipling’s day.
I recall with both amusement and horror browsing in a used bookstore somewhere (I think it was San Francisco), and coming across an English-Hindustani phrasebook written for British soldiers billeted in India. I swear on a stack of Bibles I’m not making this up: One of the phrases was, “You black bastard, you call these boots 𝑐𝑙𝑒𝑎𝑛?” I wish I had bought it, just so I could get past the “pix or it didn’t happen” crowd, but I remember being (even in the ’90s) rocked to my very core to find something like that.
We have come a long way. But we still have a very long way to go.
Critical Race Theory is very simple, but because of political (and prejudicial) undercurrents in certain segments of our society, it is widely misunderstood and misrepresented.
The Thermonuclear Bowel Evacuation Formerly Disgracing the Oval Office is quoted as having said,
“Students in our universities are inundated with critical race theory. This is a Marxist doctrine holding that America is a wicked and racist nation, that even young children are complicit in oppression, and that our entire society must be radically transformed.”
45’s Remarks at White House History Conference, September 17, 2020
This is not Critical Race Theory. It is pushback from a white supremacist world view, trying to make something important and human into something frightening and oppressive.
To teach that racism is still baked into our social system, and to serve as a catalyst for change toward a more equal and representative system (in other words, to make America the land of equality and equal opportunity that it has long trumpeted itself to be) is the most peaceful and human thing I could imagine.
Children – and adults – need to understand and see where and how racism operates to perpetuate the lie of Alexander H. Stephens, vice president of the Confederacy, to the effect that:
“Our new government[‘s] foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.”
For the most part, we have come past the days when black people could be lynched by white mobs with impunity. But if you read the news, it’s hard to ignore the fact that racism and outright homicide is still endemic in many of the police forces of our nation.
George Floyd’s homicide was widely publicized, but in terms of endemic racism, it’s only the most current tip of the iceberg.
This is not OK, and no amount of pearl-clutching and flag-wrapped pushback or “blue lives matter” wailing can make it so.
But it’s not just policing and inequity in incarceration and a failed drug war and an oppression campaign pushed by the Nixon administration. Racism touches almost everything in obvious and not so obvious ways.
Access to equal housing.
Access to equal financing.
Access to equal education.
Access to equal employment.
Access to equal relationships.
Access to equal voting privileges.
And the list goes on.
Racism taints it all. If you’re black, or brown, or yellow – you and your ancestry have certainly encountered this, and continue to do so, in myriad ways that would not even be evident to someone born and raised in white privilege unless they have made a concerted effort to be aware of history.
America is not a wicked country, or a Marxist country, and Critical Race Theory doesn’t make any attempt to paint it as such. America is a human country – filled with brave and noble men and women who strove to make it a great nation for all. But it’s also a country that made mistakes, some of which have echoes which continue to ripple down to the present day. And it’s those mistakes that people of good will seek to recognize, and enshrine in our official chronicles, and remediate in the fastest and best way possible.
I applaud the idea.
This is not a matter of debate. It’s a reality. Those who have eyes to see will see, and do their best to make a difference.
I grew up in New York City in the ’50s. So when a friend of mine posted this, and I watched it, I was naturally struck with feelings of nostalgia for times and events in my life that are now gone forever.
But along with the nostalgia and wistfulness was an overpowering awareness that I was watching the documentary of a reality that only existed for some Americans. The stark contrast, totally ignored in this yearning little video, is well represented in this image from Life Magazine:
Those happy folks in the back, smiling in their car… those are the people we see in the video. The ones in the front, waiting in a bread line, were not even visible anywhere.
It was great to be white in the ’50s.
You grow up in that environment, and you grow up a racist, and a sexist, even though there may not be a malicious bone in your body. Racism and sexism were in the blood and bones and DNA of society, and you were bombarded with blatant or subconscious reminders that women’s place was in the kitchen (barefoot, pregnant, and with no vote)¹, and black lives didn’t only not matter, they were totally invisible.
This one was relatively subtle. There was much, much worse out there.
With a history like that, anyone born in the ’50s or even the ’60s is going to have these attitudes driven deep into their psyches, and they are devilishly hard to expurgate completely. That’s why a person who wants to have a positive effect on the world around them needs to pay attention to the advice below (which applies to any “-ism,” not just racism) and practice it on a daily basis. Not unlike alcoholics in recovery who realize and understand that they are never really “cured,” these ways of thinking will surface at a moment’s notice given half a chance.
The Old Wolf has spoken.
¹ Things have improved, at least on the surface – but sexism in American society is still a very real phenomenon, particularly in the workplace. Advertising agencies, still embarrassingly aware that sex sells almost more than anything, still pump out sexist ads, although in the #MeToo era, some companies are issuing mea culpas (but only when they get caught out).
As for racism? Sometimes I wonder if we’ve made any progress at all since Selma. Some of the things I’m seeing now in terms of voter suppression in Georgia and other GOP states recalls a very dark stage of American history, as outlined brilliantly by Heather Cox Richardson.
First off, a disclaimer: I’m not a sociologist. I don’t claim to be well-versed in the psychology of racism, bigotry, or prejudice. These are my own thoughts, based on a lifetime of experience and observation from someone born into white privilege and adopted into a generally disparaged faith.
This is a long post. Sorry not sorry.
They taught us about slavery in elementary school. We learned about the ship that arrived in 1620 carrying “twenty and odd negroes.” We learned about how people were stacked in ships like sardines. We learned about the Civil War, and the Emancipation Proclamation. But we learned nothing about what it was like to be a slave, or the 400-year aftermath.¹
A white citizen in America today cannot really know what it’s like to be a slave, or to live as part of a still-oppressed, marginalized, and often brutalized population.² But I can read, and I can learn, and I can empathize. And over time, in the following works, I have gained a glimmer of understanding about what Africans and African-American peoples have had to deal with over the centuries, up to and including today. There are many, many other accounts out there, but these are the ones that have impacted me the most over the years.
If you have a microgram of compassion in your soul, these books cannot help but touch you, and help you to understand what is happening today in Minneapolis and elsewhere, and why.
Go Tell It On the Mountain by James Baldwin, Native Son, Black Boy, and 12 Million Black Voices by Richard Wright:
Baldwin and Wright had different ideas about the black experience and how to chronicle it. Both are seminal writers. Particularly Wright’s Black Boy left me absolutely gobsmacked at what growing up in the South was like for a young man who came to earth with a mind that questioned why life around him was the way it was, and could see the injustice, and express it profoundly and honestly.
A quarter of a century was to elapse between the time when I saw my father sitting with the strange woman and the time when I was to see him again, standing alone upon the red clay of a Mississippi plantation, a sharecropper, clad in ragged overalls, holding a muddy hoe in his gnarled, veined hands— a quarter of a century during which my mind and consciousness had become so greatly and violently altered that when I tried to talk to him I realized that, though ties of blood made us kin, though I could see a shadow of my face in his face, though there was an echo of my voice in his voice, we were forever strangers, speaking a different language, living on vastly distant planes of reality. That day a quarter of a century later when I visited him on the plantation— he was standing against the sky, smiling toothlessly, his hair whitened, his body bent, his eyes glazed with dim recollection, his fearsome aspect of twenty-five years ago gone forever from him— I was overwhelmed to realize that he could never understand me or the scalding experiences that had swept me beyond his life and into an area of living that he could never know. I stood before him, poised, my mind aching as it embraced the simple nakedness of his life, feeling how completely his soul was imprisoned by the slow flow of the seasons, by wind and rain and sun, how fastened were his memories to a crude and raw past, how chained were his actions and emotions to the direct, animalistic impulses of his withering body…
From the white landowners above him there had not been handed to him a chance to learn the meaning of loyalty, of sentiment, of tradition. Joy was as unknown to him as was despair. As a creature of the earth, he endured, hearty, whole, seemingly indestructible, with no regrets and no hope. He asked easy, drawling questions about me, his other son, his wife, and he laughed, amused, when I informed him of their destinies. I forgave him and pitied him as my eyes looked past him to the unpainted wooden shack. From far beyond the horizons that bound this bleak plantation there had come to me through my living the knowledge that my father was a black peasant who had gone to the city seeking life, but who had failed in the city; a black peasant whose life had been hopelessly snarled in the city, and who had at last fled the city— that same city which had lifted me in its burning arms and borne me toward alien and undreamed-of shores of knowing.
Wright, Richard, Black Boy, Cleveland, World Publishing Company, 1937
Black Like Me – John Howard Griffin
This work was a product of the 60s, but is important for a number of reasons. It’s often disparaged as a naïve social experiment that was doomed to failure precisely because the author was white, but I find it a work that brings me back again and again.
No, it makes no sense, but insofar as the Negro is concerned, nothing makes much sense. This was brought home to me in another realm many times when I sought jobs. The foreman of one plant in Mobile, a large brute, allowed me to tell him what I could do. Then he looked me in the face and spoke to me in these words: “No, you couldn’t get anything like that here.” His voice was not unkind. It was the dead voice one often hears. Determined to see if I could break in somehow, I said: “But if I could do you a better job, and you paid me less than a white man …” “I’ll tell you … we don’t want you people. Don’t you understand that?” “I know,” I said with real sadness. “You can’t blame a man for trying at least.” “No use trying down here,” he said. “We’re gradually getting you people weeded out from the better jobs at this plant. We’re taking it slow, but we’re doing it. Pretty soon we’ll have it so the only jobs you can get here are the ones no white man would have.” “How can we live?” I asked hopelessly, careful not to give the impression I was arguing. “That’s the whole point,” he said, looking me square in the eyes, but with some faint sympathy, as though he regretted the need to say what followed: “We’re going to do our damnedest to drive every one of you out of the state.”
Griffin, J.Hl, Black Like Me,, 1960
Griffin himself even said,
As I had suspected they would be, my discoveries were naïve ones, like those of a child.
The entire book has the overriding attitude of “You mean this really happens? This is what life is really like for black people in the South? Yes, the discoveries were simple, and everything was filtered through the mindset of a white man of privilege, but it’s still very much worth reading.
Death at an Early Age: The Destruction of the Hearts and Minds of Negro Children in the Boston Public Schools by Jonathan Kozol:
Above and beyond describing the hideous disparity that existed in the Boston public school system in the ’60s, it shone a light on the vicious racism that took root there. The persona of the “Art Teacher” is especially breathtaking in its ignorance and ingrained evil – she was a master at destroying the souls of children whom she clearly thought belonged to a sub-genre of humanity. Read it and weep.
“All white people, I think, are implicated in these things so long as we participate in America in a normal way and attempt to go on leading normal lives while any one race is being cheated and tormented. But I now believe that we will probably go on leading our normal lives, and will go on participating in our nation in a normal way, unless there comes a time where Negroes can compel us by methods of extraordinary pressure to interrupt our pleasure.”
Kozol, Jonathan, Death at an Early Age
To Be a Slave by Julius Lester:
While this book is aimed at youth readership, its collection of tales from people who actually lived through slavery cannot fail to move adults if they have a shred of humanity.
“One day while my mammy was washing her back my sister noticed ugly disfiguring scars on it. Inquiring about them, we found, much to our amazement, that they were Mammy’s relics of the now gone, if not forgotten, slave days. This was her first reference to her “misery days” that she had made in my presence. Of course we all thought she was telling us a big story and we made fun of her. With eyes flashing, she stopped bathing, dried her back and reached for the smelly ol’ black whip that hung behind the kitchen door. Bidding us to strip down to our waists, my little mammy with the boney bent-over back, struck each of us as hard as ever she could with that black-snake whip. Each stroke of the whip drew blood from our backs. “Now,” she said to us, “you have a taste of slavery days.”
Frank Cooper, Library of Congress
Don’t You Turn Back by Langston Hughes
As described by Nancy Snyder at Bookriot.com, “Langston Hughes was the chronicler of African American life in Harlem, New York City, from the 1920s through the 1960s. Hughes set out to portray the stories of African-American life that represented their actual culture—including the piercing heartbreak and the joy of everyday life in Harlem.” His poetry is beautiful, yearning, and haunting. It should be on the to-read list of anyone who is interested in the human condition.
Dream-singers, Story-tellers, Dancers, Loud laughers in the hands of Fate— My People. Dish-washers, Elevator-boys, Ladies’ maids, Crap-shooters, Cooks, Waiters, Jazzers, Nurses of babies, Loaders of ships, Porters, Hairdressers, Comedians in vaudeville And band-men in circuses— Dream-singers all, Story-tellers all. Dancers— God! What dancers! Singers— God! What singers! Singers and dancers, Dancers and laughers. Laughers? Yes, laughers….laughers…..laughers— Loud-mouthed laughers in the hands of Fate.
Hughes, Langston, Don’t You Turn Back
Be warned, these books are “products of their times,” and the language used in most of them would be highly offensive by today’s standards. But this is the way it was, and you can’t whitewash it or sanitize it.
We didn’t know nothing like young folks do now. We hardly knowed our names. We was cussed for so many bitches and sons of bitches and bloody bitches and blood of bitches. We never heard our names scarcely at all.
Sallie Crane, Library of Congress.
A recent post (June 2, 2020) on Facebook by Caroline Crockett Brock illustrates poignantly that these attitudes, these experiences are not a thing of the past. They are not just the stuff of history, of Emmett Till and Rodney King and George Floyd and so many nameless others. It relates the experiences of Ernest Skelton, the owner of Grand Strand Appliance Repair Services.
When Ernest, my appliance repairman, came to the front door, I welcomed him in.
As this was his second visit and we’d established a friendly rapport, I asked him how he was feeling in the current national climate.
Naturally, he assumed I was talking about the coronavirus, because what white person actually addresses racism head on, in person, in their own home?
When Ernest realized I wanted to know about his experience with racism, he began answering my questions.
What’s it like for you on a day-to-day basis as a black man? Do cops ever give you any trouble? The answers were illuminating.
Ernest, a middle-aged, friendly, successful business owner, gets pulled over in Myrtle Beach at least 6 times a year.
He doesn’t get pulled over for traffic violations, but on the suspicion of him being a suspect in one crime or another.
Mind you, he is in uniform, driving in a work van clearly marked with his business on the side. They ask him about the boxes in his car–parts and pieces of appliances.
They ask to see his invoices and ask him why there is money and checks in his invoice clipboard. They ask if he’s selling drugs.
These cops get angry if he asks for a badge number or pushes back in any way.
Every time he is the one who has to explain himself, although they have no real cause to question him.
Ernest used to help folks out after dark with emergencies. Not anymore.
He does not work past dinnertime, not because he doesn’t need the business, but because it isn’t safe for him to be out after dark.
He says “There’s nothing out there in the world for me past dark.”
Let me say that again. Ernest, a middle aged black man in uniform cannot work past dark in Myrtle Beach in 2020 because it’s not safe for him.
He did not say this with any kind of agenda. It was a quiet, matter of fact truth. A truth that needs to be heard.
Ernest has a bachelors in electronics and an associates in HVAC.
Ernest says most white people are a little scared of him, and he’s often put in a position where he has to prove himself, as though he’s not qualified to repair appliances.
After getting a job for 2 years at Sears appliance, Ernest started his own company, one he’s been running for several years.
He is the best repairman we’ve had, and has taught me about washer dryers and how to maintain them myself, even helping me with another washer/dryer set and a dishwasher without charging me.
I highly recommend his company, Grand Strand Appliance.
Ernest doesn’t have hope that racism will change, no matter who the president is.
His dad taught him “It’s a white man’s world”, and he’s done his best to live within it.
When I asked him what I could do, he said, “everyone needs to pray and realize we’re all just one country and one people”.
I am a 45 year old white woman living in the south. I can begin healing our country by talking frankly with African Americans in my world—by LISTENING to their lived experience and speaking up.
I can help by actively promoting black owned businesses. That’s what I can do today.
Let’s start by listening and lifting up. It’s that simple. #listenandlift
The Watts riots. The Rodney King riots. The George Floyd riots. These are “the methods of extraordinary pressure to interrupt our pleasure” that Jonathan Kozol mentioned. Taken by themselves, the destruction and looting are senseless and wrong. Taken in the context of 400 years of systemic oppression, they are entirely understandable. These things happen because the white establishment refuses to listen, to understand, and to act.
The BLM movement is being used by opponents of progress and maintainers of the status quo to show their ignorance. There is no implied “only” in front of “black lives matter.”
An exquisite example of this happened in 2016, when a supposed group of law students wrote a letter to Patricia Leary, a professor at Whittier Law School, taking her to task for wearing a BLM teeshirt “on a day in Criminal Procedure when we were explicitly discussing violence against the black community by police.” ³ Images of the letters and concomitant transcripts can be found at Imgur; the professor’s response to these entitled and presumptuous brats is a takedown worthy of 1998, when the Undertaker threw Mankind from the top of Hell in a Cell, and he plummeted 16 feet through an announcer’s table.⁴
Of course all lives matter. Despite the fact that there are pervasive problems of racism, discrimination, racial profiling, and unwarranted brutality among police departments today, blue lives matter too. But as mentioned before, BLM is not about “only” black lives. It’s a movement because black lives are the ones that have been being – and continue to be – devalued and oppressed and taken.
Two recent artistic representations of current events:
We are at a difficult and critical juncture of our nation’s history right now. Things could go a number of ways. It’s not inconceivable that given the attitudes of our current leadership, we could see a Tienanmen Square type of event in our country. Or much in the way of Occupy Wall Street, the BLM movement could peter out into irrelevance and we could see a return to the status quo. These are extremes. It is my hope that the momentum gained in recent times will continue, and that rational heads will prevail, because we owe it to our founders to preserve the republic that they gave us.
Edit: This belongs here.
The Old Wolf has spoken.
¹ Just in passing: Most of the kids in my class were white and Jewish. I was one of only three goyim. There were two black kids. Most of us have stayed in touch for 65 years. We never heard from the black kids again, even though we tried hard to find them for our 50th reunion.
Edit: recently found one – he was delighted to be contacted!
² Some white people in this country know what it’s like, even if for a brief time. I refer you to the depredations suffered by members of the newly-formed Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as they were cursed, hunted, slaughtered, mobbed, abused, robbed, subject to a statewide legal extermination order, and driven west across the country from 1830 to 1847. It was a small taste of what slaves and their descendants have suffered for over 400 years. But the point is that unless you’ve experienced this kind of systemic hatred and persecution first hand, you can’t really understand what it’s like.
Edit: It occurred to me some time after writing this post that understanding persecution does not always automatically translate into compassion and sensitivity. The history of the Latter-day Saints with regard to people of color is unenviable.
³ Although the text has been widely shared with critical details redacted, Inside Higher Ed posted the relevant details to show that this was an actual event that really and truly happened.
⁴ With thanks to redditor u/shittymorph for the useful reference.
“Separate but Equal” was the rallying cry of racism.
Original caption: Charlotte, NC: A crowd of youths taunts Dorothy Geraldine Counts, 15, as she walks to a previously all-white Harding High School to enroll. Leaving the school, she was pelted with trash, small sticks and pebbles. (Copyright Bettmann/Corbis / AP Images)
Anyone who dared go up against the idea that schools should be integrated found themselves the target of really classy behavior;
On the morning of September 4, 1957, fifteen-year-old Dorothy Counts set out on a harrowing path toward Harding High, where-as the first African American to attend the all-white school -she was greeted by a jeering swarm of boys who spat, threw trash, and yelled epithets at her as she entered the building.
Charlotte Observer photographer Don Sturkey captured the ugly incident on film, and in the days that followed, the searing image appeared not just in the local paper but in newspapers around the world.
A week later, the girl in the photograph was gone. Her parents -having been told by the school administrators and police officials that they could not guarantee her safety -sent her to live with a relative in suburban Philadelphia, where she could peacefully attend an integrated school.
Ms. Counts, who has long been active in the fight to attain racial tolerance and equality of education and other opportunity, sees things headed in the wrong way.
At West Charlotte High — a predominantly African American school her granddaughter recently graduated from — she says the lack of resources is disturbing.
“At the beginning of the school year, they would go for weeks without books, for weeks without enough chairs for everyone in the classroom,” she says. “When I heard about that I thought, Lord, this brings back memories.”
I wonder what kind of memories Ms. Counts could relate? Here’s a quote from Jonathan Kozol, in his troubling book, Death at an Early Age, which recounts his first year of teaching in the Boston schools in the 60s, Kozol recounted the attitude of racist teachers who infested the system:
“You children should thank God and feel blessed with good luck for all you’ve got. There are so many little children in the world who have been given so much less” [said teacher who didn’t care to address reality.] The books are junk, the paint peels, the cellar stinks, the teachers call you nigger, the windows fall in on your heads. “Thank God that, you don’t live in Russia or Africa! Thank God for all the blessings that you’ve got!”
And now we live in the 21st century, when such inequality, such oppression, such discrimination should be behind us. Yet in a December, 2014 essay, two prominent voices for equality (Grace Ji-Sun Kim and the Rev. Jesse Jackson) point out that what we are now seeing in Baltimore (which at the time of writing had not yet happened) is the result of a continuing pattern of inequality.
The dying words of Eric Garner symbolize our situation. “I can’t breathe” speaks from the grave and describes the circumstances faced by many who are being choked by a system that treats different races and classes of people unequally.
When the banks of black and brown homeowners drove them into foreclosure, we couldn’t breathe.
When inner-city hospital trauma units are closed to those without insurance and the poor are denied access to Medicaid, we can’t breathe.
When inner-city residents are denied access to public transportation to get to where the jobs are, we can’t breathe.
When inner-city schools have a lower tax base to support public education but students have to take the same exams as suburban kids with a stronger tax base, we can’t breathe.
When they changed the formula on PLUS loans loans, poor and black parents couldn’t breathe.
When student-loan debt is greater than credit-card debt, students can’t breathe.
When corporations we support will not advertise with black media, black-owned media can’t breathe.
When Silicon Valley locks us out of boards and corporate suites and locks us out of employment, contracts and entrepreneurial investments, even though we disproportionately use their products, we can’t breathe.
When banks cut off lending and investment to African Americans, they cut off our breath; but the government gave failing banks oxygen tanks with no obligation to help those who paid for the oxygen.
As inequality persists, many are left in the dark, desperate for life and breath.
And yet there are some who wonder why things like Watts and Baltimore happen. What I wonder is why it doesn’t happen more often.
Middle-class America is talking a lot these days about living as the 99%, and there’s merit in that conversation. But I hear more outrage from people who live better than most of the world’s population with regards to their own situation than I do about people in our own country who have virtually next to nothing, and who are being kept in that situation by societal pressures which persist in large part from the days of slavery.
I believe in Reverend King’s dream, but my own dreams go farther.
I have been accused of hoping for a utopia, a socialist paradise, but I believe that as a species, we as humans can do much better for one another than we have ever done. I believe in a world that works for 100% of humanity, where those who have give freely, and where those who have not can work for what they receive; where hate and envy do not trouble us; where divisions over race, religion, and gender are done away; where children are taught principles of humane living with just as much vigor as they are taught their three Rs.
To those who would dismiss these dreams as pie in the sky, I simply say that if we do nothing today, we will live tomorrow the same way we lived yesterday.
I previously wrote two articles, here and here, about the efforts of France (and Québec, since we’re on the subject) to keep their language unspotted. Many Gallic purists will point at the magna carta of La Pléiade, “Défense et illustration de la langue française,” as reason enough to fight against the encroachment of other, less worthy tongues into the only true language; in view of the recent flap over English as the language of America the Beautiful, really nothing more than a tempest in a teapot promulgated by the intellectually challenged and those devoid of any sense of humanism, I present here a dictionary of terms which must be avoided and their acceptable English alternatives.
The Xenophobe’s Dictionary List of Words for Folks who Don’t Like Outlanders.
Ketchup (from k’ē chap, Chinese for “tomato sauce”): Tomato paste with vinegar and onions and other stuff what makes it a vegetable for school lunches.
Kangaroo (from Australian aboriginal): Big Jumping Rat that makes fine eating.
Cola (from West African languages (Temne kola, Mandinka kolo): That brown drink what goes good with rum.
Coca-Cola (From from Quechua cuca and “cola” above): Something from that liberal-ass un-American company what right-thinking ‘Murcans won’t touch with a 10-foot pole. Even “Big K” has better stuff.
Jukebox (possibly from Wolof and Bambara dzug through Gullah + box): Record-player thingy what you put quarters in.
Candy (from Arabic قندي qandī, sugared): Dayum, you mean mah lemon-heads wuz invented by the A-rabs? Sumbitch, I’ll just have to switch to chawin’ terbacky. Say, Clem, gimme a chaw.
Tobacco (From Taino, a Caribbean language. Said to refer either to a roll of tobacco leaves or to the tabago, a kind of Y-shaped pipe for sniffing tobacco smoke also known as snuff, with the leaves themselves being referred to as cohiba): Stuff you roll up and stick in your mouth and then set on fire. 
Well, you get the idea. In fact, purging our English language of all foreign influence would be an exercise in futility, for even Old English was liberally infused with Latin as the result of a 400-year Roman occupation, as well as being a combination of dialects prevalent in the area, including the languages of the Celts, the Angles, the Saxons, and the Jutes. There is no “pure English,” and if you tried to take away all the foreign influences our language has not only survived but reveled in over two thousand years, we’d be reduced to speaking in grunts and belches. Oh wait, a lot of people haven’t got much farther than that anyway.
The Old Wolf has spoken.
 Thanx and a tip of the hat  to Bob Newhart
 Thanx and a tip of the hat to Bill Holman
It’s a simple concept. People of various nationalities singing “America the Beautiful” in their own language. But for sheer ignorance, have a look at some of the Twitter comments recently posted about this commercial:
The Coca-Cola Co. Should apologize for the ridiculous #SuperBowl commercial #AmericaTheBeautiful should ONLY be in one language #English
Really glad I drink @Pepsi and not @CocaCola because that commercial was just AWFUL next time #ENGLISH please! #SB48 #SuperBowl
If you want to come to this country fine we welcome you BUT your going to sing America The Beautiful in #ENGLISH & drink #PEPSI #SUPERBOWL
I don’t think a commercial that sings in other than #English is a good idea #SuperBowl am not gonna buy ur product anymore
WTF? @CocaCola has America the Beautiful being sung in different languages in a #SuperBowl commercial? We speak ENGLISH here, IDIOTS.”
The xenophobia and ignorant racist vitriol being spewed out onto the Internet breaks my heart. Yet these people seem to have no problem driving down Via Verde Avenue in their Prius to go eat Pizza with their Swedish girlfriend… the intellectual and spiritual disconnect is very difficult for me to get my head around.
Some statistics would probably not be amiss here. The 2010 census reports:
Of that total, 16.4% are of hispanic or latino ancestry. That’s close to two out of every 10. Moreover, have a look at the 15 largest ancestries of these oh-s0-proud Americans:
It wouldn’t be surprising if the real names of some of these uneducated and small-spirited bloggers were Jorgensen, DeSalvo, O’Shaunessy, Kang, or Graumann. If they’re taking pride in being called Jones, they may well have forgotten their Welsh ancestry.
Kris Kristofferson has Swedish ancestry. The Governator is from Austria. Rocky Marciano was Italian. Bruce Willis was born in Idar-Oberstein, West Germany. Walter Cronkite had Dutch ancestry. Robert Zemeckis had Lithuanian ancestors. Gene Simmons was born in Israel. My own grandparents came from Tuscany and Calabria. America the beautiful, the open, the welcoming, the free – it has always been and will always be a melting pot of cultures, races, languages and ideologies. We must never forget the words of Emma Lazarus:
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, With conquering limbs astride from land to land; Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame. “Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
“The New Colossus,” 1883
As our nation grows in population and we deal with issues of unemployment and the social well-being of our citizens, the issue of immigration must of necessity be dealt with in a rational and humane way, giving priority to those who enter our country through legal and approved channels – but we must never become a nation where ugly and brutal nationalism is allowed to become a vehicle for the demonization of any race, creed or culture. Our national language is English, and those immigrants who have been most successful are the ones who have assimilated rapidly, learned the language and the culture of their adopted home, and mainstreamed themselves and their children. But remembering and honoring their cultural heritage is also a big part of who they are, and how they interact with and contribute to the nation.
If you’re going to insist on English only, you must by rights exclude yourself from ever eating at Acquerello in San Francisco (in fact, you must refer to it as Saint Francis, and no one will know what the hqiz you are talking about) or Piccolo Angolo in New York; you are prohibited from ever driving a Porsche or a Mercedes-Benz; you may never refer to a shiatsu massage or a reiki treatment; you can’t drink vodka; taboo is taboo; you can never again use ketchup; and heaven help you if you want to eat fondue.
For the love of whatever you hold sacred, fight racism, exclusionism, nationalism and xenophobia with every fiber of your being. Every American citizen in this country is entitled to the same respect and status – remember, in the end, – with the exception of Native Americans who were here long before the Mayflower – we all got here on a boat one way or another.
There is a serious cognitive disconnect in our society. Paula Deen has been pretty much thrown in the dumpster for using the word “nigger”… once. Yet “Django Unchained” throws that word around one hundred and thirteen times, and earns an 88% (reviewers) / 94% (audience) rating at Rotten Tomatoes.
This isn’t Huckleberry Finn, a book written in 1884 and “a product of its times” (that book uses the word 203 times, by the way)… this is a 2012 production that has grossed over $423 million, and won two academy awards – one for best screenplay.
I abhor prejudice and discrimination in all its forms. Ms. Deen committed a serious error in judgment when she dropped that word in public  and I’m not condoning or justifying what she did… but rather, I’m asking the question, “Why was “Django” so popular if, by virtue of statistics, it should have been found 113 times as offensive as one person’s lapse of good manners?” Where’s the justification for that kind of popularity? If this racial slur is as offensive as everyone at politically-correct dinner parties and media newsrooms seems to think, how could a movie like this even get greenlighted, let alone make it to the Academy Awards?
There are a lot of people out there still talking about race relations, but I’d be really interested to hear what Morgan Freeman thought about this. He’s the one who pointed out that we’ll never get past the issue of race until we stop talking about it, and movies like “Django” seem – in my simple opinion – to be a force counter to progress toward greater humanity. That means that if a word is unquestionably offensive, everyone ought to stop using it. White folk shouldn’t use it. Black folk shouldn’t use it (claiming that they’ve pre-empted it, and made it “theirs”). Filmmakers and authors shouldn’t use it. If people keep using an offensive word and sometimes it’s OK and sometimes it’s not, then there are some serious questions to be asked.
I have no real answers, but the matter – in the words of Khan – “tasks me”… and I felt moved to put the questions out there.
The Old Wolf has spoken.
 I’m aware that her problems are a bit more complex than the one incident in question, but for the sake of simplicity I won’t elaborate on that here, as the other issues don’t really bear on the root problem.
Utah gets nothing but sugar beets (now a defunct industry.) Colorado gets a mint, Montana gets Injuns, the South gets nothing but happy darkies workin’ in the fields. Pretty sad map all the way around, if you ask me; even discounting the racism, it doesn’t even highlight the best things each state has to offer.
I’d like to think we’ve come a bit farther than this.
A 1994 documentary, now approaching 20 years old, depicting how young Native Americans perceive racism. I would not be going out on a limb to say that the same film could be made today.
Racism exists. It cannot be denied, or covered up, or excused. It is tied to the same mechanism that drives bullying, in the family, the schoolyard, or the workplace. Racism rears its head when people deny their better nature and look for mechanisms to justify their behavior. It is fed by the “us vs. them” dichotomy.
In a world that works for everyone, with no one left out, there is no room for hatred or cruelty. Despite all our technological advances as a race (and here I mean the human race), in some ways we are still scrabbling about in the mud. If we are to reach the stars, these weak and foolish tendencies must be rooted out of the global psyche.