Whar’s the Rocky Road ice cream!
Whar’s the Rocky Road ice cream! Whar’s the Chocolate Mint!
He stood bending over the ice cream freezer, rifling through the cartons, looking like a mountain man come down from the hills looking to replenish his supplies. Hairy, bearded, unkempt. In his left arm he clutched a matching dog, who watched calmly as its master became more and more agitated.
His accent was decidedly authentic, old-school Texan.
Whar’s the Rocky Road ice cream!!, he yelled again, his frustration evidently growing. Don’t yuppies eat Rocky Road ice cream?
No one answered.
I got in line with my purchase, an Apricot Ale, a decidedly yuppie purchase. He finally got in line behind me, a pint of ice cream in his off-dog hand.
Don’t yuppies eat Rocky Road ice cream! he yelled from his spot in line.
Again no answer.
When people yell you tend to think they’re angry and you’re inclined to want to run the other way, which was my initial reaction to him. But when I thought about his use of the term “yuppies” — a word I haven’t heard used in more than 20 years – and where we were geographically — I started to see the ice cream as a metaphor for his life. Yeah, he was loud but maybe this is a guy who is trying to express his frustration about losing things he knows in an area of the city that is transitioning. rocky road horizonMaybe he’s lived here all of his life and now all of these people with money are moving into the neighborhood. Maybe these yuppies are not only displacing his friends and family but they are also trying to replace everything with which he is familiar, like the ice cream he grew up with, with those yuppie flavors like Sea Salt Caramel Truffle.
Maybe it was something about his quest for Rocky Road in particular that hit me. When I was much younger that was my favorite ice cream flavor. Whatever the reason, something compelled me to turn around and address him.
I turned and asked, What kind of ice cream did you settle on?
He didn’t look so angry, standing behind me with that pint of ice cream in one hand and the dog in the other. He seemed surprised that anyone had acknowledged him.
Oh, he said.  Much more subdued. Chocolate Dutch, he said. Sometimes you have to make sacrifices.
Yeah, you do, I said. I turned to the counter and paid for my purchase.
As I left the store I watched him approach the counter.
Don’t yuppies eat Rocky Road ice cream!? he yelled toward the clerk.
Still no reply.

Sandra Bland, 28, was stopped for an illegal lane change, pulled out of her car and thrown to the ground, arrested and three days later was dead in her jail cell, supposedly a suicide.

Sandra Bland, 28, was stopped for an illegal lane change, pulled out of her car and thrown to the ground, arrested and three days later was dead in her jail cell, supposedly a suicide.

How can I write?
How can I add my thoughts, my voice to the discourse this country must have about race and Black and White and brown folks and the miserable state of race relations and violence directed toward us when the atrocities keep coming on with the ferocity of bullets from an assault rifle? How can I propose specific actions or solutions when the atrocities keep piling up faster than I can put pencil to paper (yes, I still write that way).
I am not at a loss for words. I have plenty to say. The words are there. So many thousands of them, colliding against the walls of my skull, competing to get out that I don’t know where to start.
I don’t want to pour out my sorrow. I don’t want to fire out my rage. I want to offer constructive solutions to whatever it is that is causing so many to think it is okay to beat and kill, and taunt, disrespect and ostracize Black people.
Writing is what I do. It is how I make sense of the world but how can I make sense when there is no sense to be made? Writing is how I express the hurt, anger and frustration that builds up inside. It allows me to continue to function in this world when everything else says “all is lost”.
But how can I write?
The physical violence across our nation and the violence to my psyche, to the collective psyche, keeps coming so fast I can’t breathe. My heart hurts and my brain feels ready to explode.

Michael Brown, 18,vFerguson MO
Tamir Rice, 12, Cleveland, OH
Eric Garner, 43, New York
Freddie Gray, 25, Baltimore MD
Walter Scott, 50, Charleston SC
Rekia Boyd, 22, Chicago, IL
John Crawford, 22, Cleveland OH
These names are spoken so often by so many that they are almost as if a prayer. They did nothing to deserve their deaths. Why G-d? Please G-d, no more. But there are always more. If not at the hands of the police, then at those of deranged vigilantes or avowed racists.
Susie Jackson, 87
The Rev. Daniel Simmons, 74
Ethel Lance, 70
Myra Thompson, 59
Cynthia Hurd, 54
Depayne Middleton Doctor, 49
The Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45
The Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41
Tywanza Sanders, 26
The confessed assassin allegedly told the congregants, “You rape our women, and you’re taking over our country,” before shooting them. Can somebody, anybody tell me the last time you heard of a 70- or 80-year-old Black woman or even a 74-year-old Black man raping anybody?
I’d ask who goes into churches and murders people in a house of G-d but I’ve seen it happen before in my lifetime. The cold-blooded murder of nine praying souls is not unthinkable in a country that still lives in the dust from the explosion that took the lives of four little girls in the basement of a Birmingham church basement during the 1960s civil rights era.
Addie Mae Collins, 14
Denise McNair, 11
Carole Robertson, 14
Cynthia Wesley, 14
Every time I sit down to try to write there is another incident and the issue I meant to address fades into the background. I had no sooner sat down to write about a New Orleans police officer who struck a 16-year-old girl in a detention center with a set of four-point restraints when another video pops up. In this one more than 20 Philadelphia cops kicked and beat Tyree Carroll, a 22-year-old Black male, calling him a “piece of shit.” The cops originally stopped him for riding his bicycle the wrong way down a one way street.
The police department said officers had probable cause to charge him with assault and said that he deliberately injured himself by hitting his head against the protective shield in the police vehicle after he was arrested for drug possession. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/07/10/20-philly-cops-beat-him-blame-him-for-injuries-and-charge-him-with-assault.html
Just this this week, as I put the finishing touches on this piece, a family has accused a Mississippi police officer of choking an unarmed Black man to death with a flashlight. An attorney states that the officer pulled 39-year-old Jonathan Sanders from a horse he was exercising in Stonewall and a struggle ensued. The family and the police differ on the details of what actually happened and, so far, there doesn’t appear to be video evidence of what occurred. http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/jul/10/mississippi-death-unarmed-black-man-jonathan-sanders?CMP=fb_tc
Just this week, in Cobb County, GA a grand jury declined to indict a police officer who shot an unarmed Black man in the back purportedly while he was driving toward them. Officers were tried to serve warrants to Nicholas Thomas, 23, who apparently attempted to flee but was blocked by police cars. http://www.cbs46.com/story/29511972/grand-jury-finds-smyrna-officer-justified-in-nicholas-thomas-shooting, http://rt.com/usa/272884-police-atlanta-shooting-law/
The Guardian newspaper predicts that 1,100 people will die at the hands of the police this year, based on an average of three people a day killed through the end of June or 547 people. The Guardian’s project, The Counted, found that Black people are being killed at twice the rate of White or Latino people. Black people are also more likely to be unarmed when they are killed.
These stats don’t even include the beatings and shootings that don’t end in death.
So here’s the thing. I don’t want to have to commit anymore names to memory. So could you stop? Please stop. If you can’t stop could you just slow down a little?
‘Cause I feel the need to write.

Note: I meant to end this with the paragraph above. But before I could finish editing and finalizing the art to go with this piece more than a half dozen more incidents have made their way into the news. Among them: Sandra Bland, 28, reportedly pulled over in Waller County, Texas, on Friday for improperly signaling a lane change and pulled from her car and thrown to the ground hitting her head. She was arrested for assaulting an officer and found dead in her cell Monday, according to the sheriff by suicide. A video was released and posted of a Gardena, CA police shooting of Ricardo Diaz-Zeferino, an innocent unarmed man suspected of stealing a bike. Jonathan Sanders, 39, according to attorneys died “through homicide by manual asphyxiation” when a police officer reportedly applied a chokehold for 20 minutes after Mr. Sanders questioned the officer’s handling of another suspect.

There are probably a million health care stories similar to mine. I wish the Supreme Court could hear them all before it rules on whether federal subsidies for the Affordable Care Act are legal. But when the ruling comes out in the next few days I’m sure it will have been made without regard to personal stories such as mine.

A couple of weeks ago I paid off the physician’s bill for a trip to a Kansas emergency room in 2012. I am still paying the hospital emergency room bill from that trip and should have it paid off in a couple of years. I didn’t have health insurance at that time even though I had recently started a full-time job so I felt the full weight of both the ambulance and emergency room bills totaling around $5,000.

I didn’t choose to go to the emergency room, but I passed out at work and I wasn’t in any shape to disagree with my supervisor’s decision to call an ambulance to take me there. Now I know in the scheme of things $5,000 for an emergency room visit may not seem like all that much money to some, but I was coming off of five years of forced unemployment and my then-current job would pay less than $12,000 a year. I already had a stack of credit card bills, much of that debt having to do with medical co-payments, deductibles, dental and starting over after serious illness and divorce bills. I had and have a sizeable student loan.

I had recently started a job and it would be a while before I would be eligible for health insurance. So the first job I had been able to find in five years would eventually provide health insurance at a very reasonable cost but not in time to keep me from going further into debt.

Make no mistake about it. The Catholic hospital I was taken to did not care that my wages were near poverty levels and it had no intention of eating or negotiating on the costs. The charitable hospital’s answer for my financial straits was for me to give them money from the $8,000 in savings I had brought with me to live for a year or, in the alternative, raid my retirement account to pay the bill.

The Sisters of Charity said we don’t care if you can’t eat tomorrow, we need to be paid today. We don’t care if the few dollars you have in the bank won’t even make up for the fact that you aren’t earning enough money to pay the rent and feed yourself for the next year. We don’t care that you’d have to pay a penalty to take money from your retirement account to pay us because you’re not old enough to retire.

Yes, I could have done that. Spent my savings and not had enough money to live on for the rest of the year, which as it turns out $8,000 didn’t come close to providing even with my job. Yes, I could have taken the hit on my retirement account and lived with the anxiety that comes from tapping into my future. I don’t know how many years I have left but I do know I have a limited number of dollars with which to live them. We eventually worked out a payment plan.

Still I know I am in better shape than many. Unlike many, due to a divorce settlement I have a retirement account. Will it be enough to take me through my golden years? I don’t know but it likely won’t be if I have to use it to survive today, which brings me back to Obamacare.

I have long been subject to the vagaries of the health care system as I have several pre-existing conditions. In 2007 I was diagnosed with and successfully treated for cancer. Coming off cancer surgery it was critical that I have access to oncologists, as well as other specialists and a primary care physician for my myriad health issues.

In 2008 I moved from Texas to Massachusetts. I didn’t have a job. I couldn’t find a job. I was only able to put together less than $10,000 in income my first year there and not much more the years I lived there. Fortunately, I had a sister who gave me a place to live and I had access to affordable health care because I had moved to the state that was the model for Obamacare.

By 2012, when it became apparent that I was not going to find a job in Massachusetts,  and I began considering moving and applying for jobs elsewhere, obtaining healthcare was an issue, but it was nowhere near the issue it was when I was considering my options in 2008 and certainly not the issue it was back in 2005 when I owned by own law practice and wanted to provide health insurance for my employees. The difference was that by 2012 the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, had been enacted, so I could be assured of finding healthcare even if I moved to a state that had rejected the law’s implementation. Federal subsidies put insurance premiums that were once outside of my reach within the realm of possibility. Federal law also assured the coverage I needed couldn’t be denied because of pre-existing conditions and I could stop fearing the cancer would come back and I’d max out my coverage.

So I moved to Kansas, a hardcore Republican state and a state that does not have a state-run healthcare exchange. I lived on my savings, without health insurance, playing the odds. I paid cash for my doctor’s visits and prescriptions, which meant I skimped on my lifesaving medications some of which cost hundreds of dollars. I filled only half of my refills at a time and took my blood pressure, migraine and other pills only every other day.

I was finally lucky enough to find a job, albeit a poorly paid one, within a couple of weeks of moving there but I wasn’t making enough money to pay for housing, food, transportation and my medical and other expenses in the long term. I found I had to spend the rest of my savings within four months of moving there just to maintain a minimum level of existence.

Over the next two years I applied for positions that would have brought in more money but nothing panned out, so when I got the opportunity to move to Texas to be near my family I took it, even though it meant I would be giving up the great health insurance deal I had. I had no job prospects. I’d gotten no takers on the applications and resumes I’d sent to Texas but the point is I could move to Texas because I knew I’d be able to purchase health insurance even though, just like Kansas, the state government there did not set up a healthcare exchange. But I knew Federal subsidies were available that could help me offset the cost. So, while I was about to go from paying less than $30 a month to several hundred dollars the important point is that I could have the insurance I needed even though I had no job or prospects.

So I moved to red-state Texas. Pieced together a bit of income and, reluctantly, began drawing from my retirement income to make up the difference of what I need to live. I purchased healthcare insurance through the Healthcare.gov insurance exchange.

Featured image

-Photo by Chris Potter/StockMonkeys.com Without Obamacare I would struggle to pay for the numerous medications I need to survive.

I’d prefer a PPO but found an HMO with no deductible, a reasonable yearly maximum and manageable premiums…with the Federal government subsidy. That first year my premium was $606 and my payment was $386. That was in December. I have had no trouble finding competent, caring doctors and have had no super long waits to get in to see an internist or specialist. Most of my medications are covered and the insurance company worked with me on the one it didn’t want to initially cover. I’ve seen no death panels.

One of my only complaints is that my premium went up with the new year and my subsidy went down, presumably because my income went up. It’s a huge balancing act for me. My healthcare subsidy is based in large part on how much money I take from my retirement account. How much money I take from my retirement account is based on how much money I think I will need for my health care premium, copays, medications and taxes.

In January my premium amount jumped to $740.  My subsidy went down to $330. I thought briefly about changing insurance companies. I wasn’t happy that my plan premium went up so quickly, but in the scheme of things I’m still better off than I ever was before Obamacare so I’ll live with the increase. It’s still a decent plan as long as I get help with the premium and the premium doesn’t keep going up. And if later I decide I don’t like the rates or I don’t continue to like the plan there are plenty of other plans from which to choose next enrollment period.

Any problem I have with the ACA at this point is miniscule compared with the problems I would have if I didn’t have the subsidy or if I didn’t have insurance at all. Take away either the subsidy or the Act itself and I’d be in more than a little bit of trouble.

Opponents of the Act don’t think about the many ways they’ve benefitted from it. I think about it almost daily because it’s been both a life and budget saver for me.

Before the Affordable Care Act I worried that I would become uninsurable because of pre-existing conditions, even if I could afford insurance. No longer can insurance companies tell me you’ve cost us too much money and we’ve spent all we are going to on you. Too bad, go off somewhere and die.

Many procedures that once added to my costs are now free to me. I no longer have to pay for my annual physical exam. That call from my gynecologist’s office last Friday when she told me my cancer is still gone, didn’t cost me a cent because under Obamacare annual pap smears are free to patients. Yesterday’s letter from the radiologist telling me that I have no signs of breast cancer…also free.  I’m counting every penny, so these things mean a lot to me.

I would love to not have to rely on the federal government for health care subsidies. I would prefer to be working a full-time job that provided health insurance but that didn’t work out for me. I’d prefer we have universal healthcare but we have what we have and I’m grateful.

This is my Obamacare story.

Rep. Paul Ryan told Fox News that Republicans want to give people like me “freedom” from Obamacare. I have a message for Mr. Ryan and the rest of his Republican cohorts in Congress and in every state that refuses to implement the Affordable Care Act. I want the US Supreme Court to hear as well. I don’t want your idea of freedom. I want life. Stop trying to take it away from me.

Psychology Benefits Society


This is part of our ongoing series of blog posts about race, racism and law enforcement in communities of color.

By LisaLyn Jacobs, JD (Vice President for Government Relations, Legal Momentum)

On a recent December Saturday, I hurried from the Metro train with my 6 year-old son trailing behind. We were joining friends and colleagues at the Justice for All March in Washington, DC.   We had endured a dismal series of weeks in late November in which grand juries had refused to indict law enforcement for the killing of unarmed black men, and an African American domestic violence survivor had agreed to a plea agreement that included a return to prison after she’d already served three years for firing several warning shots to scare off her abusive husband.

I was eager to join the crowd, to put my hands up, and to engage in the healing of collective resistance

View original post 1,539 more words

I step into the subway car.
A young man with headphones enters the doors to my left and sits just down the way across the aisle. Other than the two of us and a couple of loose tabloid sheets the car is empty.
I sit down and pull out my cell phone to text my daughter whom I’m meeting in a couple of stops to continue uptown for lunch.
“I never did figure out which is least”
Darn autocorrect.
We had arranged to meet on the last car of the train but I, being basically a Kansas tourist and unfamiliar with the ways of New York trains, wasn’t sure I could tell which end was front when I couldn’t see a big red engine car. As it turned out I could.
“Think I’m on it”
As I reach to put my phone back in to my pocket a man and a boy, maybe 12 or 13, enters at the other end of the car. The man is talking loudly, not an unusual event in New York City. I try to ignore him. He amps up his “talking”.
“Son, let me tell you about the niggers!”
“My heart is beating. I know this because I hear it. I feel it. I am aware of it.
What seconds ago was simply a ride to a pleasant luncheon outing with my daughter, son-in-law and infant grandson has suddenly turned into a risk assessment. Is this loud-mouthed bigot likely to harm me? I casually glance at earphone guy who is between me and the loud mouth and he seems oblivious to what is being said.
Not wanting to give the speaker any satisfaction of knowing I hear him and not wanting to be the cause of a physical confrontation I surreptitiously look toward the man. The old man, probably actually only 60 or 50 even, hocks up a giant white ball of spit, opens the doors between the cars and spews it out. The boy seems disinterested in what the man is saying.
The train, which has been sitting at the station, starts moving toward our destination. I decide the man poses no immediate physical threat.
He gets louder.
“Come here my boy. You’re too far away. Sit over here. I want to tell you about the fuckin’ Jews.”
At this I flat-out look up. The boy was sitting across the doorway from the man but got up and moved to the seat across the aisle upon the man’s command. He still seemed unmoved by the man’s words; almost resigned.
It’s obviously a show. The boy is right there.
The man shouts.
“The fuckin’ Jews are dirty!
“The fuckin’ Jews are shifty!”
About now I’m wondering how Mr. Loudmouth would react to knowing he’d offended both groups in my one little package. Would he be pleased?
I think about confronting him but what would I say?
“Hi, I’m a Fuckin’ Nigger Jew, please quiet down you’re offending me?”
He goes on and on about the Niggers and the Jews as I reach my stop and I casually get up to exit. I will not let him know that he has made me uncomfortable.
I gently guide my family away from the doors saying we can’t stay on this car. We move to a more amiable compartment where they smile at babies and largely stay silent.
I go on about my business and he about his.
To New Yorkers maybe this is just a case of one disturbed person in a city full of them; a minor incident not worth even registering. To me it’s an example of the minefields I may have to negotiate anytime I leave my home, no matter the city.
Some White people – not all or maybe even most – want to believe that this could be one big happy country if Black people would stop trying to make everything about race. Why do Black people always have to make it about race?
We don’t. We wish we could stop looking over our shoulders, wondering whether some guy means to harm us. Whether the guy trying so hard to impress someone on a train is going to whip out a weapon or something to back up his ignorance. It would be nice to believe that bigotry doesn’t exist anymore in America. It would be nice to be the young, White guy with the headphones who can share the same car with the raging bigot and remain clueless and unaffected. But if you’re the African-American woman riding in that car, if you’re me, it’s not that easy. As a Black woman I cannot ignore the words of crazed White men around me because history and recent events tell me that I could be attacked and I might not be able to count on anyone around me — including the authorities — to come to my aid.
As much as I’d like to believe that the world is a wonderful safe place where everyone loves me or, at the very least, tolerates my presence, it seems there is always someone waiting there to remind me that we haven’t yet reached that racial Utopia so many White folks want to believe in.

I have failed young African-American girls.

I take no solace in the knowledge that I am not alone in doing so.

You see, I, like most of America have focused my attention on Black boys and young men. And while that is a worthy goal, I think it has been at the expense of our girls.

For the last two years I have primarily focused my attention on the afterschool academy I started for boys. True, this year we started one for girls, too. But I poured most of my attention into saving the boys, as I’ve done for years. I saw this as a life or death mission, particularly for the African-American and Latino boys in the group.

I might be about to spout some heresy here but I think we need to refocus our attention. For most of my adult life we have talked about the need for our young black boys to have black adult male mentors to replace the fathers they don’t have in their lives. We have put so much attention and resources into saving black boys.

But what about the girls?

You’d think as an African-American woman I’d have done better.

I’ve sat fuming as the President, the Attorney General and politicians, scholars and others described the obstacles facing African-American boys and men and each time I whisper to myself, what about African-American women? What about the girls?

I’ve listened to leaders and “experts” talk about the need to save black boys from the school to prison pipeline and I whisper to myself, what about our girls?

When the President announced his new Task Force Brother’s Keeper, I’d had enough.

In announcing his new initiative the President, in February, talked about visiting a program, Becoming A Man (BAM), and of sharing stories with the young men in the program about struggling to do the right thing.

“And when it was my turn, I explained to them that when I was their age I was a lot like them.  I didn’t have a dad in the house.  And I was angry about it, even though I didn’t necessarily realize it at the time.  I made bad choices.  I got high without always thinking about the harm that it could do.  I didn’t always take school as seriously as I should have.  I made excuses.  Sometimes I sold myself short.”

So I’m thinking, as I have a thousand other times, what about the girls? What about those little girls who don’t have a father in the house? Don’t they get angry and act out in inappropriate ways? I’ve long been of the belief that not having a father in the home has a negative effect on daughters, too. I’m not a psychologist and only an armchair sociologist but it stands to reason that if we believe that children need two parents in a household, both children need both parents. If there are going to be problems because a father is absent, both children are going to have problems because that parent is absent. I see African-American girls making bad choices and struggling with making the right choices in school. I see black girls selling themselves short and getting into fights with other girls and flat-out trying to knock out boys who have angered them.

Barack Obama’s own words would seem to support the understanding that girls are just as vulnerable as boys. The emphases are mine, from the same press conference:

“If you’re African-American, there’s about a one in two chance you grow up without a father in your house — one in two. If you’re Latino, you have about a one in four chance.  We know that boys who grow up without a father are more likely to be poor, more likely to underperform in school.”

He says “African-American” and “Latino” without specific reference to gender. But as is typical when anyone speaks of African-Americans “African-American” equates to men and boys and women and girls are left out of the conversation. While the President translates this as a boys’ issue that one in two chance has to apply to girls too doesn’t it? Aren’t they also more likely to be poor if their brothers are poor or are all African-American boys only children?

It has been my experience that little girls have unique relationships with their fathers just as boys have with their mothers. Ever heard of “Daddy’s Little Girl”? Fathers spoil little girls in ways mothers don’t. Believe me, I’ve been there. My daughters enjoyed and continue to enjoy a unique relationship with their father just as I had and have with my son.

Yet we continue to act as if only boys are affected by living in single-parent households.

When girls don’t have those relationships with their fathers, they can spend a lifetime looking for it, and in inappropriate ways such as through sexual relationships. Some of those relationships lead to early pregnancies and perpetuate the cycle of early pregnancies and single parent households. Paul Raeburn, in his new book “Do Fathers Matter? What Science Is Telling Us About the Parent We’ve Overlooked” examines the scientific basis for the importance of fathers in the home. While I disagree that our society has “overlooked” fathers, I can agree with his premise that we have stereotyped their role.

African-American girls deserve to be part of the national conversation and to share resources aimed at helping Black children.

– Photo Joelle Inge-Messerschmidt/www.photographybyjoelle.com African-American girls deserve to be part of the national conversation and to share resources aimed at helping Black children.

Raeburn discards the stereotype of father as “moral guardian, symbol of masculinity for his sons, or harsh disciplinarian,” roles we continue to believe he plays, particularly in black communities. Instead, he embraces a scientific argument for fathers who play many more roles – including genetic ones – “companions, care providers, spouses, protectors, models, moral guides, teachers and, of course, breadwinners” and more. Among the unexplained genetic roles they play, Raeburn says, is in their absence girls seem to enter puberty earlier, which once again leads to that issue of possible early, unintended pregnancies.

We use statistics to bring attention to the plight of black boys when the same numbers ought to have us howling about black girls. The federal government issues statements about inequalities in suspension rates and test scores for and of black students and we act like black girls, as a group, don’t get suspended and aren’t struggling in school even when the numbers say otherwise.

A 2011-12 study shows African-American girls may not be suspended as often as African-American boys but they are being suspended more frequently than everybody else! The gender breakdown shows that nationally, 12 percent  of black girls received at least one-in-school suspension, whereas the rate for white girls is 2 percent , and for white boys it is 6 percent .

…. Overall, black boys are more likely to be suspended than any group, at 20 percent .  The survey looked at 7.5 million black schoolchildren, 24 million white schoolchildren and about 11.5 million Hispanic schoolchildren across the country. Across all 50 states, black girls outpace their counterparts in suspensions.[1]

Right here I would like to introduce some statistics about African-American girls’ specific performance on achievement tests or their academic performance in general but after virtually two days of research I can’t seem to find the statistics that address girls, which signifies another issue. Why are statistics about black girls and women so hard to come by. The best I can do is refer to an article bemoaning the results of African-American boys on national math and reading tests, known as the National Assessment for Educational Progress, which are given to students in fourth and eighth grades, most recently in 2009:

The analysis of results on the national tests found that math scores in 2009 for black boys were not much different than those for black girls in Grades 4 and 8, but black boys lagged behind Hispanics of both sexes, and they fell behind white boys by at least 30 points, a gap sometimes interpreted as three academic grades.[2]

The 2010 report, “A Call for Change” found 12 percent of black fourth-grade boys were proficient in reading, compared with 38 percent  of white boys, and only 12 percent  of black eighth-grade boys were proficient in math, compared with 44 percent  of white boys.

So, back to President Obama:

“As a black student, you are far less likely than a white student to be able to read proficiently by the time you are in 4th grade.  By the time you reach high school, you’re far more likely to have been suspended or expelled.  There’s a higher chance you end up in the criminal justice system, and a far higher chance that you are the victim of a violent crime.  Fewer young black and Latino men participate in the labor force compared to young white men.  And all of this translates into higher unemployment rates and poverty rates as adults.

“And the worst part is we’ve become numb to these statistics.  We’re not surprised by them.  We take them as the norm.  We just assume this is an inevitable part of American life, instead of the outrage that it is.  (Applause.)  That’s how we think about it.  It’s like a cultural backdrop for us — in movies and television.  We just assume, of course, it’s going to be like that.  But these statistics should break our hearts.  And they should compel us to act.”

–          President Barack Obama, February 27, 2014

Is it any less outrageous when the statistics apply to girls? It took me years of psychotherapy to understand that a person’s bad experience is not invalidated because another person has a worse one. Yes, fewer African-American girls than boys end up in the prison system but is that to be the only measure? And fewer is relative. Fewer women end up in the prison system than men period. That’s the nature of the beast. Fewer African-American women end up in the criminal justice system than African-American men but they do end up there. And the consequences can be catastrophic to those women, to their families, to the African-American community and the United States . The more appropriate comparison would be between other groups of women not men.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, at mid year 2010, the incarceration rate for women was 126 per 100,000 population. The rate for non-Hispanic white women was 91, for non-Hispanic black women the rate was 260, and for Hispanic women the rate was 133.[3]

Among female prisoners in 2012, black women ages 18 to 19 were 3 times more likely to be imprisoned than white women. Hispanic women in this age group had imprisonment rates nearly twice those of white women. Black and white female imprisonment rates were closest among prisoners ages 25 to 39, when black women were less than twice as likely as white women to be imprisoned.[4]

According to a 2012 report from The Sentencing Project there were more than 205,000 women in jails and prisons. As of 2010, more than one million women were under the supervision of the criminal justice system, meaning that if they were not incarcerated they were on probation or parole. The lifetime likelihood of imprisonment for women is 1 in 56; however, the chance of a woman being sent to prison varies by race. As of 2001, the lifetime likelihood of imprisonment was:

  • 1 in 19 for black women
  • 1 in 45 for Hispanic women
  • 1 in 118 for white women

In 2010, black women were incarcerated at nearly three times the rate of white women (133 versus 47 per 100,000). Hispanic women were incarcerated at 1.6 times the rate of white women (77 versus 47 per 100,000).

Here’s the kicker, once again using statistics provided by the Sentencing Project. Women in state prisons are more likely to have minor children than are men (62 percent versus 51 percent).

  •  64 percent of mothers in state prisons lived with their children before they were sent to prison compared to 47 percent of fathers.
  • Mothers in prison are more likely than are fathers to have children living with grandparents (45 percent versus 13 percent), other relatives (23 percent versus 5 percent ), or in foster care (11 percent  versus 2 percent ).
  • One in 25 women in state prisons and one in 33 in federal prisons are pregnant when admitted to prison.
  • The majority of children born to incarcerated mothers are immediately separated from their mothers.

Who is advocating for the motherless child?

Perhaps if we want to solve the problems of African-American boys we should start with ensuring that African-American girls get the same amount of attention as black boys. If single African-American women aren’t suitable parents for African-American boys, perhaps we should take better steps to make sure that African-American girls don’t become the single parents of those boys.

I could go on. African-American women experience great levels of domestic and sexual violence. African-American women suffer unemployment woes just as do African-American men. In fact, according to Black Enterprise in May 2014:

Black unemployment dropped from 12.4 percent to 11.6 percent, but is more than double the rate for white people (at 5.3 percent). Black women ages 20 and older trail close behind their male counterparts (at 10.4 percent compared with 10.8 percent.) In March, the gap was a bit wider, with the jobless rate for black women at 11 percent (compared with 12.1 percent for black men). The unemployment rate for black teenagers of both sexes is also at an alarming number at 38.6 percent (reflecting a rise from March and a large gap when compared with white counterparts, whose rate is 15.9, a drop from the previous month).[5]

To sum all of this up, life for black girls and women, to borrow a line from my favorite Langston Hughes poem “Mother to Son”, “ain’t been no crystal stair.”

A Forbes article quotes Dr. Charlotte Pierce-Baker, the author of “Surviving the Silence: Black Women’s Stories of Rape,” as saying:

“We are taught that we are first Black, then women. Our families have taught us this, and society in its harsh racial lessons reinforces it.  Black women have survived by keeping quiet not solely out of shame, but out of a need to preserve the race and its image.  In our attempts to preserve racial pride, we Black women have sacrificed our own souls.”[6]

While Pierce-Baker is specifically referring to sexual assault, what she says applies equally to every facet of the trials of African-American women.

It is time to reclaim our souls and the souls of our little girls, not in place of our boys and men but beside them.

[1] http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/she-the-people/wp/2014/03/21/study-black-girls-suspended-at-higher-rates-than-most-boys/

[2] http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/09/education/09gap.html?_r=0

[3] – See more at: http://www.drugwarfacts.org/cms/Race_and_Prison#sthash.n74RYjlr.dpuf

[4] – See more at: http://www.drugwarfacts.org/cms/Race_and_Prison#sthash.n74RYjlr.dpuf

[5] http://www.blackenterprise.com/career/report-jobs-added-african-american-unemployment-april/

[6] http://www.forbes.com/sites/shenegotiates/2012/04/25/black-women-sexual-assault-and-the-art-of-resistance/2/







Here in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of America where hardly anyone pays attention to what goes on, one voice continues to cry out for justice for Trayvon Martin and for a change in Stand Your Ground laws.

And after a year-and-a-half of reading and hearing some of the most vile comments you could never imagine people thinking, much less expressing, about a 17-year-old boy who was killed while walking home from buying candy and iced tea, I was surprised and grateful as Sean sat next to me and uttered the most righteous words I’ve heard since Trayvon’s killer George Zimmerman walked free.

“I wish I had been there to walk him home,” Sean told me.

Sean’s reaction is in stark contrast to that of many to this day. Each new day, each new week seems to bring opportunities to Zimmerman supporters to both blame Trayvon Martin for his own death and to denigrate his family and the entire Black American population for every societal ill, past and present. Then again, Sean is most definitely not a Zimmerman supporter.

Sean Steppenwolf Soroko, 22, is a student at Emporia State University. And he is White.

This summer he worked full time doing physical labor at the Docking State Office Building in Topeka. The work was so physically demanding that sometimes it was hard for him to find the energy but writing is how he works through his thoughts and feelings. When he has a chance he writes; this summer a lot of poetry, but he is still finding his creative writing legs and is pursuing writing at college.

Seans Poem

Sean Soroko wrote this poem after George Zimmerman was found not guilty of the murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

Sean’s brow furrows as he contemplates the teenager’s death, as he still does often. The pain is real and evident.

“I wish I was there to tell Zimmerman to back off.”

Sean Soroko is where White America could and should be but isn’t willing to travel. He feels to his core the pain of Trayvon Martin’s parents and he actually mourns the death of a young man deprived of a future. He is the physical embodiment of the (White) person I have been seeking online all summer. He empathizes with people who do not look like him.

Two weeks after the not guilty verdict the wound in his soul appeared not as deep as  the week immediately following.

“I’m still very disappointed but I’m ranting less about it,” he said.

He appreciated the comments from Juror B29 who said she believes that the law required a decision that she felt in her heart let Zimmerman get away with murder.

“Unfortunately, that’s not going to change the way the verdict came out,” he said. “I understand the pressure she had to put up with being on the jury.”

Sean also isn’t one of those people who hide behind the anonymity of their keyboards and spout off about Trayvon and Zimmerman and Black people knowing they won’t face any consequences for their offensive behavior.

He started following the story in its earliest stages when he signed an online petition urging an investigation into the young man’s death. He felt the need to become involved because Trayvon was so young, because his death seemed avoidable and because it seemed as if his death was being treated as “he’s just another Black kid.”

“Growing up with Black kids had a good effect on me. I didn’t see them as the stereotypes most White people did. (His death) touched an emotional spot in me.”


Sean Soroko displayed a sign he carried in Topeka, Kansas, to protest the George Zimmerman verdict. Kansas is one of the 26 states that have the law.

He has been a vocal activist, perhaps even risking his personal safety at times, so strong has been his commitment to Trayvon’s cause. Even before the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network was calling for a national day of action Sean was taking action of his own.

“I felt provoked. I wanted to voice my disapproval about the trial, the act, stand your ground and that night in February.”

So he went home and made a sign:


And even though he was dead tired at the end of the day and even though it was 90-some degrees outside every day, he went to the busiest intersections in Topeka on three days before the nationwide day of protests, which marked his fourth, and held up his sign — alone.

The reaction was mixed.

He heard what he called a lot of vicious, soulless comments. For example, he heard:

“You’re not too bright, are you?”

“One woman took it upon herself to bring up the OJ trial as a rebuttal and a weak rebuttal it was. OJ murdered people. Trayvon didn’t murder anyone. What reason would you have to use him? I was a little kid when OJ happened. But (I know) that was very different by a long shot.”

Language Alert: Sean excuses himself before sharing the following story. One woman said “ ‘one less nigger around.’ My first thought was how dare you have the audacity to use that word.”

He often wanted to tell people to “stick your sack of soulless comments where your heart should be” but he didn’t. He just kept holding his sign even when it wasn’t clear that it was safe to do so.

He did get some positive responses. Some drivers honked as they passed by, some offered him their thumbs up or a peace sign in approval.

“It takes more than one person to make a difference but maybe gradually through time more people will follow.”


Sean Soroko and Lee Sterrett

He convinced a friend, Lee Sterrett, to join him for an hour one day. Lee is not as invested as Sean and chose to approach the task with humor. His sign read:


Lee said he wanted people to think about the issue in a different way and people did react differently to his sign than they did to Sean’s sign next to his. They shared a laugh.

Unlike Sean, Lee isn’t closely following the issue — he kept misstating Zimmerman’s first name — but he sees in its aftermath a trend in our society toward a need to tear down others and believes we need to empower ourselves to move beyond hate, fear and despair to confront that tendency and help someone else.

Lee likens some people’s reactions to Trayvon Martin to their reaction to himself, (he is somewhat heavy-set) when he was walking down the street.

“People honked at me. People made fun of me. I thought, ‘Really?’ Why not offer me a ride?’ Basically, if we are going to conquer fear, despair and hate it comes down to being willing to pick up on trust, hope and love.”

He said what he saw with the George (yes, he happily got it right this time) Zimmerman trial was people pitted against each other.

“What I find interesting is when someone is on the stand, when someone is on trial, we don’t wait to identify why? Are you looking out a window or are you looking in a mirror? What if George Zimmerman was looking back at you in the mirror? We all have the same potential within us as George Zimmerman or Trayvon Martin.

“What makes George Zimmerman a bad guy?,” Lee asked. “You have to ask yourself did he do the same thing any of us could do? Who are we to say Trayvon Martin deserved to die? Are we G-d?”

Lee won’t consider who is right or wrong in the debate over whether Zimmerman profiled Martin and whether he got away with murder because he believes only Zimmerman can answer that question.

This protest isn’t a passing thing for Sean; a couple of weeks pass and you just forget about it.

“I followed the story closely for what seemed to be a very long year and I will continue to follow it,” he said. “I felt devastated (at the not guilty verdict). It just boggled my mind that a man could get away with shooting someone because he wanted to. He was a two-bit vigilante and it looked like the justice system didn’t work. The thing that got to me was seeing the smile on his face. He didn’t care. He’s just happy to be off the hook, or he thinks he’s off the hook.”

Just days ago Sean signed and posted on his Facebook page the new petition from Trayvon’s parents, “Change for Trayvon: Stand Your Ground Laws Must Be Reviewed”.

“I’m 100 percent proud of what I’ve done,” Sean said. I didn’t care (if he got hurt). I don’t care. I would still stand there with that sign.”

Even if he weren’t heading back to college Sean couldn’t hold that that sign up anymore.

“An African-American teenager came up to me and said he liked my sign so I gave it to him and told him to keep spreading the message. Keep it alive and keep it going.”

I spent much of the week following the George Zimmerman second-degree murder trial and the not guilty verdict online trying to reason with Zimmerman supporters.

Now, being a trained journalist and a fairly astute judge of people, particularly based on what I have seen and heard following the killing of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed Black youth by an armed, shall we say, non-Black adult, many Zimmerman supporters will already take umbrage with what little I have written above. But I tend to choose (at least most of) my words carefully and I chose the words “reason with” on purpose, knowing that they might offend some.

I do not use this terminology to impart some sense of superiority or to be purposely divisive but to point out that if you say something as (what I think is) innocuous as “Trayvon Martin was just a kid walking home minding his own business” before he was killed, you unleash a stream of passion that no amount of argument seems able to penetrate.

Another way of saying this is, although I expressed no opinion one way or another as to the guilt or innocence of George Zimmerman, people made assumptions about my opinions  as to the outcome of the trial based on that one statement and my race, which, I might point out, was apparent in my postings. One thing is clear in the online “conversations”; if race was not a part of the trial, it is the driving force behind all of the discussions about Trayvon Martin’s death and George Zimmerman’s resultant trial.

What many — not all —White people can’t understand or admit is that it is not just Black people who see all of this as a race issue. They do too. Not only do Black people see this case as having social ramifications beyond one case. White people do too. They are just loath to admit it honestly and openly. They couch their race discussions as presentations of “facts” while accusing Black people of being overcome by “passion”, racial paranoia or worse.

Let me be clear. When I say, “if race was not a part of the trial” I am not saying race did not enter that courtroom or that race did not color that encounter between George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin on that February evening in 2012 when Zimmerman followed and ultimately killed the 17-year-old. I am not saying that race did not enter the jury room as deliberations unfolded. I am saying that just because you don’t speak the word doesn’t

Al Sharpton lynching

This Investor’s Business Daily cartoon by Michael Ramirez, leveled at the Rev. Al Sharpton, civil rights activist and MSNBC host, after the Zimmerman trial verdict, uses racially charged imagery to make its point. Lynchings were used well into the 1900s to oppress African Americans, a fact that remains close to the consciousness of many Black people.

mean it isn’t there. I am merely acknowledging those who state that race played no part in this case. I hear you, but you’re wrong.

So, on the one hand you have people — White and Black — saying this trial outcome offers an opportunity for an honest conversation about race and on the other hand you have White people saying “What are you talking about? This case wasn’t about race, why should we talk about race?”

This is how you know this case and its aftermath was and is about race for the White people who say it is not about race or those who have charged Black people with making a racial issue where none existed. They dredge up every racial grievance against Black people they can think of even though those grievances have absolutely nothing to do with Trayvon Martin, the Zimmerman case or themselves! They rant about O.J. Simpson, President Obama (he’s not only racially divisive, he’s a socialist), the Duke lacrosse team, Tawana Bradley, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Rodney King  and any other story they have ever heard or read that even remotely involves a Black person in a negative light. They cite “facts” promulgated from every White nationalist blog on the Internet by rote as proof that Blacks as a whole are bad people and just don’t want to admit it.

Interestingly, those posting these “facts” about African-Americans are either unaware or uncaring that what they are writing (or in the case of television or radio saying) might be perceived by African Americans as insulting, hurtful or untrue. There seems little recognition that Black people are people. That we are, well, humans, just like White people. We have some unique challenges, yes, but we breathe air, we eat food, we bleed red blood and we have thoughts, feelings and problems just as they do. There seems to be an overwhelming attitude that Black people are not entitled to any kind of feelings — whether it is fear of being stopped by police or of being followed by strangers or of being insulted by those emboldened by the anonymity of the Internet or by those earning the millions of dollars they earn from the racist idiocy they spew about us in print and on the airways.

Trayvon Martin

This photo of 33-year-old Jayceon Terrell Taylor aka rapper, “The Game”, is being circulated as a recent photo of Trayvon Martin, the photo the mainstream media won’t show you. Zimmerman supporters are using the photo to support their argument that Martin was actually 6’2″ and 175 pounds and could easily have crushed George Zimmerman in a fight.

So many White people have taken this tragedy to chastise the President as being racially divisive just for saying “if I had a son he would look like Trayvon” when if we truly lived in the post-racial, color blind society they claim we live in they could envision their own son standing in Trayvon’s shoes. Can you ask yourself, what is it that makes you unable to accept that Trayvon Martin was a child, a human being, who could have been your child, your brother, your nephew, who was confronted by a full-grown adult? In a situation involving a child, a teenager, a young adult, who has the ultimate responsibility to act in an adult manner? Those of you who want to proclaim that the President is not Black because his mother is White, pretend he was speaking of his “White half.” Could you then find some empathy toward a family that has been nothing but classy through this whole ordeal?

White people seem extremely comfortable telling African Americans how we should think, feel and act when they would never accept the same from us. Many of them have taken this as an opportunity to do so. Can you imagine the backlash were Black commentators to fill the airwaves every night lamenting the 38.8 % of White people on welfare as obviously only wanting to suck on the government teat rather than work or if they lamented the disintegration of the White family because of those 9.5 million White kids living in single-parent households, and that all of those children (under age 18 who live with their own single parent either in a family or subfamily) were certain to grow up to be thugs? And what about that staggering 84 percent White on White murder rate? Pretty horrifying. Why aren’t White people doing something about that?

To be sure, many White people are aware of their Whiteness and the privilege that attaches to it. Unfortunately these people are often dismissed by other White people as victims of “political correctness” gone amok, as blinded by White guilt or attacked as what used to be called “race traitors”. People like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, and many of their viewers and listeners would do well to listen and learn from them. Here’s a newsflash: not all of those who see a problem are President Obama supporters or left-wing radicals. Even if they were, that would not disqualify them from understanding what it means to be a White person in America today or from exhibiting compassion or empathy toward people who do not look like them (as far as color goes), traits the exhibition of which have been severely lacking in the aftermath of the death of Trayvon Martin and the trial of George Zimmerman.

Those who are seeking a conversation about race are not trying to take your Whiteness away from you. You are welcome to keep it. You are welcome to talk about it with us. That is not a bad thing to do. We are not willing to accept it as a badge of superiority where you get to use it as your birthright to tell us how we should feel or live. The last thing we need is White people lecturing to us about race and racial issues when they themselves have not come to grips with them. African Americans are forced to live with the consequences every day.

So, my White sisters and brothers, if you’re still not convinced, let me try one more line of argument to try to persuade you that we should talk about race. We should have this talk because you are angry, you’re hurting and you’re afraid. We should talk about it because you have some legitimate grievances but you’re taking out your hurt, anger, fear and grievances on the wrong people. Despite the fact a lot of people are trying to convince you otherwise, Black people are not your enemies. We should talk about race because there are some very important people who don’t want us to talk because they are afraid that if we do we might discover that we like each other and then we will focus our anger in the right places. We should talk about race because we have more in common than you might recognize because we don’t talk. We should talk about race because you don’t seem to know that it is okay to notice or even talk about your own or another person’s race. To notice that a Black person is Black is not in and of itself racist. It is what one does with this knowledge that determines whether one is “racist,” a term which is really of limited value in a conversation about race.

This case could provide an opportunity, but it won’t unless something drastic happens — and it hasn’t yet. At least it hasn’t for a lot of White people. You can’t have a telephone conversation if the person on the other end won’t pick up the phone. And too many White people aren’t ready to accept the call for an honest racial conversation. They believe the call for such a conversation all by itself is racially divisive. They fear that to accept the call is to accept the label “racist.” Once again, they would be wrong and that is precisely why we need to talk.

So as I see it, we are at a crossroads, one of many we will approach. White people can stick their fingers in their ears and say, “Lalalalalala, I can’t hear you,” or you can be willing to listen before you talk, and learn.

Please read “A Race is a Nice Thing to Have: A Guide to Being A White Person or Understanding the White Persons In Your Life” by Janet E. Helms, Phd

Righteous indignation is an interesting thing. Almost every liberal, progressive, Democrat politician, journalist, citizen, whatever, is expressing outrage over the reports that the Federal government collects telephone usage data without the specific prior knowledge or permission of the American people. That the government is possibly peering into our every email or website visit.

We become righteously indignant when we feel we have the moral high ground on an issue. Once we reach the moral high ground we will not cede it lightly. We may look down from our perch atop the mountain at the feckless peons below but the one thing we won’t do is look into any mirrors.

Believe me there has been a lot of shock and anger expressed by progressives toward the Obama Administration over the National Security Administration (NSA) data mining program “revealed” by fugitive Edward Snowden.

How dare the Government steal our information? We’ve got to do something about this! Thank goodness that whistleblower fellow told us what was going on so we can start have an open discussion about Privacy and our rights!


While we’re having that national conversation can we have another one about all of the data progressives are obviously sharing with each other about me? I am on so many progressive email lists I want to scream, “Stop sending me emails! I don’t have any money!”

I didn’t sign up for this. I’m not even a Democrat; I’m Independent-ish. (It’s hard to be independent when you don’t have any parties to choose between).

So from my viewpoint, righteous indignation isn’t the place progressives should be. They should be checking out that mirror. From my perspective I’m more afraid of them because they know how to find me and they’re after my wallet.

The day I’m writing this I received two emails from Progressives United asking for money donations. Former Senator Russ Feingold, its founder, is from Wisconsin. I’m not and as far as I know, I’ve not ever given Feingold or his organization any indication I had any interest in them. Yet here they are begging me for money.

Now the fact that these unsolicited emails from Feingold’s organization keep showing up in my inbox is interesting in that Feingold was one of the early progressive critics of the NSA program obtaining unauthorized information from Americans. Earlier this month, the former senator who was the only one to vote against the Patriot Act, called the NSA “revelations” “deeply troubling”, according to news reports.

I got plenty of emails from the Ed Markey for Massachusetts Senate campaign although I no longer live in Massachusetts and have never expressed any kind of interest in his campaign.

Al Franken and I have become close acquaintances although I don’t live in Minnesota or wherever it is he represents and I’ve never given him any money no matter how hard he’s begged. I don’t know how I got on his email list but I’ve resisted unsubscribing because last November Franni Franken sent a great recipe for Aunt Carla’s Pumpkin Cornbread that was a huge hit with my housemate and I don’t want to risk missing another gourmet delight.

I’ve received donation requests from Tom Harkin. I’ve heard of him but I couldn’t tell you a thing about him. So, when I see at the bottom of the email:

We’ve contacted you because you signed up at TomHarkin.com or provided us with your email address which is listed as jmindell@sbcglobal.net. Click here to unsubscribe.

Paid for by To Organize a Majority PAC and authorized by Citizens for Tom Harkin

I’m pretty sure someone’s lying.

Then there was the Sierra Club, which I’ve never shown any interest in, as I’m not much into hugging trees. At least they had the decency not to claim that I was receiving the emails because I had requested them.

Another progressive organization I am very certain I didn’t invite into my email inbox is, ahem, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). While I was brought up in an uber-liberal tradition which held that the ACLU was the ultimate defender of freedom, I have never forgiven them for defending the American Nazi’s right to march through the heavily Jewish Skokie , Ill. So, once again I know they didn’t get my information from me.

Now, I love Sherrod Brown, politically speaking, and I actually think he’s kind of cute, but I didn’t sign up for the Friends of Sherrod Brown email list, at least I don’t remember doing so. There wouldn’t have been any reason for me to do so because I don’t have any money!

Perhaps the Federal government collecting information about Americans – which by the way I contend they’ve always done to the best of their ability – is a part of the “national conversation” we need to be having right now. I think we needed to have it before we passed the Patriot Act in the first place. But given that the American public acquiesced to being stripped of both their common sense and their civil rights in exchange for an elusive fight on terrorism this NSA policy is not a surprise to me nor should it be to anyone else. Neither does it scare me.

To me as it is currently purported to operate it seems little more than a giant telephone book which the Government can access under certain strict legal guidelines. Can that program be abused? Of course. Did Edward Snowden provide us any evidence that it has been? Not that I’ve seen. Do we need to know more about what keeps it from being abused? Perhaps. I screamed about every aspect of the Patriot Act from before its inception but I lived in Texas so no one heard me. But I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying, we let this happen with our silence. We let this happen with our fear that those radical Islamists were going to come after us again. We cannot claim now, Rachel Maddow, that we didn’t know what the government was doing. We might not have known the exact methods but we provided the means.

That said, let’s have this conversation, belated though it may be.

Sen. Alan Grayson, has been quoted as saying the NSA data mining program:

“It is completely wrong and utterly unconstitutional. It’s the Big Brother state come to life. The government has no right to get our email records.”

The NSA isn’t the only organization spying on you.

Well, Sen. Grayson that is how I feel about you and your friends. It is wrong for political organizations to get a hold of whatever records you have gotten that gives you the right to keep emailing me asking for money. While we’re having conversations, looking at privacy laws and thinking about changing laws can we take a look at all of the myriad ways the political system is invading our electronic privacy, please?

Oh, and if anybody’s looking for a great recipe for pumpkin cornbread but doesn’t want to end up on anybody’s mailing list, drop me a note.

Aside  —  Posted: July 6, 2013 in liberals, Media, Oath, Obama, Politics, president, President Obama, progressives, Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

You didn’t build your business.

I did.

My friends, siblings, neighbors and co-workers did.

My parents and grandparents built your business.

You may have provided the vision that sparked it. More likely you inherited the business, or at least the money to start it, from your parents. But let’s assume you took the initiative to start it and that you provided the initial seed money one way or another and the capital needed to keep the doors open when times were tough and the customers weren’t coming through the door. You may even have worked ungodly hours over the years to ensure the business’s success.

But you didn’t build it.

Not by yourself.

I’d bet my life’s history that I was there beside you, working just as hard, and much of the time working much harder than you were working to build your business.

I worked hours of overtime without pay. Maybe you didn’t notice I was there finishing that report you needed tomorrow as you were heading out for an evening of celebrating your company’s successful year.   I gave up time with my children – those moments watching them grow up – moments that I can never recover. I invested in your company on the promise that we were building something together. I gave up days off and vacations. I gave up pay increases. I gave up my health, my youth and my safety on the promise of a shared future that never happened.

My story is not singular. Millions of people can share the same story.

My mother worked over 30 years for the same employer. Because she was “salaried” she never earned minimum wage and her employer could require her to work more than 40 hours a week. When she started working for them, it was a simple mom and pop shop but with her help – and the help of several other employees – mom and pop built that store into two. She had to beg for raises even though she was one of (usually “the”) top sales performers. Over the years, through the hard work and dedication of many, including me, those two stores grew to three then four, then more. My mother was passed over for promotion to manager or assistant manager each time, even though she was the most qualified for the position. Still, she functioned as a manager and never complained. The owners knew they could rely upon her to make certain that their business would thrive any time they were absent, including when they were on vacation, a luxury she never had.

National Child Labor Committee Photographs taken by Lewis Hine, ca. 1912 - ca. 1912

Group of girl workers at the gate of the American Tobacco Co. Young girls obviously under 14 years of age, who work about 10 hours every day except Saturday. Wilmington, Del., 05/1910

My mother dreamt of owning her own business, a restaurant. That never happened. It’s difficult to save for your dreams when you’re raising a family of seven children and your family’s combined income is, well, low. One day, as she was getting ready for work she had a stroke that left her paralyzed on her left side. Her career was over, and the company that she helped build was nowhere to be found. She had no health insurance and no pension. Thank G-d there was a “social safety net,” the same one the Republicans who think they build things want to destroy.

We, the people who worked for you, put in the hard labor that allowed you to amass the wealth that you’re now hoarding and refusing to reinvest because you don’t like us and you don’t like the President. You talk to us about moving up the rungs of the ladder but after we helped you build yours you ripped the ladder out from under us. There is no ladder.

Were we angry that you were getting wealthy? We knew that someday we would be rewarded for our loyalty, even if it was only with a gold watch. We expected, at the very least, job security. We didn’t have to envy you because we had hope.

Then you started sending our jobs overseas; “off-shoring”, which was good for your bottom line but that left those of us who helped you build your company with fewer jobs. You started paying us less and working us longer hours. Those of us who had pensions and healthcare were stripped of them.

Those jobs we helped you create, those industries we built are gone. The jobs we thought we’d work at until we retired are gone. There are no new jobs because it is not profitable for you to create them. You used us until you no longer needed us and now, you want to call us lazy. You say “If you want it and you work hard” you too can have it. You too can become wealthy. You too can build it.

That is a gross simplification. That is simply gross.

The truth is we built it together.

And we deserve better from you.