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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.


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/ 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.



[3] – See more at:

[4] – See more at:




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 or provided us with your email address which is listed as 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.

Y’all are making me angry.

I’m just not sure which y’all I want to write about. There are several of y’all that are irritating me.

Contrary to the opinion of the day, y’all does not automatically denote Black folks, even when Black folks are in the room.

“Y’all” is a contraction, a shortened form of “you all.” It is used by many, Black, White and I assume all the colors of the rainbow, to address people, singularly and in groups. One of my best friends in college, a White boy from Houston, was one of the first people I ever noticed regularly referring to everyone as y’all. When I moved to Kansas years later some of my Black friends referred to y’all, some did not. And when I moved to Texas, even more years later, everybody was talking about y’all all of the time.

But I digress.

The y’all I’m talking about here is the y’all that is stirring up the most trouble – the media.

Y’all have the nerve to hold yourselves out as above the fray when you continually do nothing but cause it.

Enough is enough.

What passes for reporting today is way past a joke. Whether you’re talking about CBS, NBC, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Fox, Forbes, MSNBC or any other media outlet there is no news outlet that is consistently giving the American public straight up honest news reporting.

This flap about Vice President telling an audience that the Republicans were trying to return “y’all” to chains is a prime example of what’s wrong with what passes for reporting (and I might add with the what we are willing to accept as a country).

The “news” is being manipulated, primarily, I believe, by conservatives, but I am willing to entertain the idea that it is also by the left to a lesser degree. The media, all of it, in all of its forms, are focusing way too much of its attention on these ridiculous, inane stories instead of the truly important issues facing the country.

Those who report “the news” today remind me of that t-shirt: “They say I have ADHD, they just don’t understand….Oh look, a chicken!

Conservative politicians are particularly adept at taking advantage of the media’s inability to distinguish and then focus on what is important.

Joe Biden’s comments are clearly an example of how far the media has fallen. He was clearly speaking about Mitt Romney’s economic policies:

“Look at what they [Republicans] value, and look at their budget. And look what they’re proposing. [Romney] said in the first 100 days, he’s going to let the big banks write their own rules — unchain Wall Street,” Biden said at a rally in Danville, Va. “They’re going to put y’all back in chains.”

The comment drew a smattering of laughs and some noises from the 1,000 or so in the racially mixed crowd of supporters that appeared to be roughly half African-American.

As far as I can tell, no one attending that meeting took offense at Biden’s statement at the time; No one said anything following the meeting and there were no Black folks standing up in anger, saying Joe had offended them. Importantly, there were no reporters pointing out that Biden had offended anyone until after later in the day when Mitt Romney and his camp used the occasion to accuse the President of being angry and hateful and divisive. Then all of a sudden, this is the story of the week, and Joe Biden in another one of his gaffes has insulted all Black people everywhere.

“Mr. President, take your campaign of division and anger and hate back to Chicago,” Romney said.
Mitt Romney? Really? If there is an issue concerning campaigns hurling insults toward Black people I can assure you Mitt Romney isn’t the person I would call upon to point it out to the media. I’m not saying Romney doesn’t know anything about insulting Black people. Quite the contrary. His party has done plenty since President Obama was elected, and increasingly as this election cycle has progressed. That’s precisely why a thinking journalist might be a tad bit suspicious when he starts taking umbrage at statements made by someone else.

Quite frankly, Romney played everybody, including some prominent Black people:

 gwen ifill @pbsgwen

I kinda get saying “chains” instead of “shackles.” But what was “y’all” about?

Was Gwen, former Gov. Doug Wilder or anyone else objecting when Biden used “y’all in April to what I assume was a White audience in Exeter, New Hampshire?(There are only 50 some Blacks in Exeter).

 “Gov. Romney calls the president out of touch,” he said. “Hey, how many of y’all have a Swiss bank account? How many of you have somewhere between $20 and $100 million in your (retirement account)?”

Romney has successfully deflected everyone from many major issues, among them: 1) the continuing call for him to show us his taxes; 2) his horrible vice presidential pick, 3)  a Republican judge’s partisan decision to let stand an obviously partisan voter suppression law in Pennsylvania and 4) Vice President Biden’s very valid criticism of the economic hell that would be unleashed were Romney to be elected President based on the words previously used by Romney’s running mate.

Meanwhile no one is dealing with what Biden was actually saying. Later, when he was told the GOP said his remarks were offensive he did not apologize. He said he was trying to match Paul Ryan’s use of the word “unshackle” and unchain is the word that came to mind. Ryan has talked about “unshackling” the economy (and no one was offended at his imagery of the Black President putting everyone in shackles). The concepts are the same.

The media’s response was largely, oh, yeah, sure. We don’t believe you. You’re gaffe-prone Joe Biden. It was a gaffe. So America loses a chance to have a discussion about whether Romney’s policies are better than Obama’s, a discussion both sides should and I think would welcome. And the Republican Party continues to trot out that phrase as if it balances the “subliminal” racism employed by the Romney campaign.

There was a time when there existed journalists; women and men who recognized and pursued news stories. We didn’t rely solely on press conferences or press releases or source leaks for our stories. We valued enterprise, finding and pitching unique story ideas for the front page or the lead television news story; in short, competing, rather than reporting the same sad, sorry circus act. We wanted news stories to be unique.

I know this because I used to be one of them. I know how hard it was to get a story on the front page and how special I felt when I did. Today, all you have to do is quote some nonsense fed to you by some politician, no matter how untrue, no matter how idiotic: “President Obama wants gas prices to go up to $10 a gallon.”

Republicans keep repeating that and reporters keep reporting it and it’s obviously nonsensical. There is no scenario where it makes sense that the President could believe he could be reelected by driving gasoline prices up, yet the media allows these conspiracy theorists to repeat this lie on a regular basis.

Whether we are left or right leaning or we don’t lean at all, it is time for those of us who fear for the fate of our nation to demand better from those who purport to deliver the news.

We shouldn’t have to work so hard to find the facts. I fact check everything, whether it comes from the Obama camp or the Romney camp. I don’t trust the networks and I don’t trust Politifacts. If we’re lucky we get the Obama camp says this and the Romney camp says that, but most of the time we just get one side of “the news.” Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney spent a week saying President Obama “stole” $716 billion from Medicare and the very best “defense” we get from the media is a meek and belated “the Ryan budget does the very same thing.” The two proposals work with the same number but they do two very different things with that line item. The media has done a disservice to anyone who wants to make a rational decision on the candidates by how they are covering this issue. Anyway, the lie has already time to take seed.

This does no one a service. Sometimes what the Romney camp says is pure, shall we say, lies. So, why report it? You don’t have to report everything that comes out of Romney’s mouth just because he said it. If you feel you must report everything, then you owe it to your viewers/listeners/readers to clearly and concisely specify what is important and what is not and what is true and what is not. It is not your job to “balance” the news – this side says this and that side says that.

There are extremely important things going on and we need to know about them and understand them. No one believes the idea that the media is objective. It is not now and it never was. We understand this. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t trust the media for factual information. You can be partisan; you can have a bias and still present the facts. Just tell us what your bias is. The media – the mainstream print, television (that includes Fox) and online – can and must play a critical role in providing the presentation of the news that will allow us as citizens to understand what is happening to our country. That requires those presenting the news to engage in some analysis, reasoning and critical thinking of their own before presentation rather than merely participating in regurgitation.

The Internet presents so many more alternatives. If we can’t trust you to do any more than repeat the same information as Cousin Bobby’s blog then we really don’t need you. You really can do better. You have the resources. If he mainstream media does not do more to adapt, we’re just going to have to keep trading insults back and forth (“stupid Republithug”, “idiotic Obamacrat”) with Cousin Bobby. We don’t need you.

I have a son.

We spent a lot of time together when he was a child, some of it beyond what one might think of as the typical time and scope of the mother-son relationship because I coached his football, basketball and baseball teams.

Among the things he learned from having his mother as the head football coach was not to take offense when someone called him a “momma’s boy.” He proudly retorted, “Yeah, so?” Or when playing sports if someone said to one of his teammates “You throw like a girl” he would tell them, “That’s a compliment!”

As a coach and as a parent there were things I tried to teach him and all of the young men with whom I interacted. Many of them lived with only mothers or grandmothers and they didn’t have male role models in their homes. I made sure they learned from the experience of playing on my teams and interacting with my family to understand that to be men they had to respect women.

My son learned to be a man not just from seeing his mother in nontraditional roles, but from spending a lot of time with me, his beloved grandmother and his favorite aunt. The women in his life were instrumental in helping to make him into the young man he has become.

The young man he has become opens the car door for me when he drives. He holds open the door for others before entering a building. He helps mothers load their baby strollers onto buses. He helps little old ladies cross the street, really. He is, in short, a perfect gentleman. He does these things reflexively, not because he expects to get anything from doing them.

He also calls his mother almost every day  and he has done so almost every day since he left home to be on his own.

We’ve talked about the love of his life, and how she broke his heart. We’ve talked about the young women he has loved and dated before and since then.

We don’t talk about it, but I assume he is sexually active. He’s a good looking young fellow in his mid-twenties.

We’ve joked about the grandchildren I assume won’t be showing up unannounced on my doorstep someday. In those discussions, in those jokes there are assumptions. There is an assumption, certainly on my part, that someone in the relationship is using birth control and that the someone is the girl. I also assume that he doesn’t think of her as a “slut” or a “whore” or a “prostitute” for doing so, and would never tolerate someone using those words about one of his exes. I also have two daughters.

Although my son fought mightily with his sisters when they were children, no one outside of the family –then or now – better ever say a word against them. He was fiercely protective of them – and they of him – and he remains so to this day.

There are two points I want to make here. One is that I hope I raised a man who knows that he is just as responsible for birth control as the woman in a relationship and two, I know I raised a man who is responsible for a woman’s honor. I expect that those values are so ingrained that no one should have to tell him to take action if they come under attack.

When Republicans decide to go after contraception I don’t expect my son to dismiss it as a “women’s” issue and something of no concern to him. Also, when a talk radio host like Rush Limbaugh calls women “sluts” and “prostitutes” I expect him to take the utmost offense. There would be hell for him to pay if I found out that I was wrong!

At the core of everything he is and does is the concept that he has learned that he must stand up for what is clearly right.  I would be furious to find him in a leadership position saying “those are not the words I would have used,” or “an entertainer can be absurd” or “the use of those words was inappropriate.”

As a teenager my son had thoughts of becoming a politician. Had he done so, should he ever do so, I’d be extremely disappointed and embarrassed to find that he is no longer standing up for his sisters, his mother, his aunts and his grandmother’s legacy. When Rush Limbaugh attacked Georgetown Law Student Sandra Fluke last week, he attacked me, my daughters, my sisters and all of the other sisters and mothers out there who dare to speak their minds about our needs; the so-called “femi-nazis.”

As his mother I would be extremely disappointed if he were a Republican in today’s world but I’d be even more disappointed in him if someone had to tell him to do the right thing. An honorable man knows that a “women’s” issue is really an “everyperson’s” issue.