In Search of Meaning, why do they do it?

When Polish Jew, Henri Tajfel, left Poland to study Chemistry in Sorbonne, France he did not know that when he returned that none of his immediate family and few of his friends would be alive. The Second World War would find in France, where he volunteered in the French Army and later would become a prisoner of war a year later.

He would face a dilemma, announce to his captors deny he was a Polish Jew or claim to be a French citizen. In the end he admitted to being Jewish but claimed French citizenship. This act probably saved his life as he survived the war in a series of POW camps. This experience also embarked him on a quest to find out the reasons for prejudice and intergroup relations.

After the war he worked with a Jewish organization helping to resettle Jewish orphans and the UN’s refugee Organization, but it was his work in social psychology that is the most influential to this day. After moving to the UK to study psychology and graduating his research examining different areas of social psychology, social judgment, nationalism and prejudice that I want to talk about.

The Consequences of Separatism, an Ideal gone wrong


MSNBC’s Joy Reid to Rand Paul: ‘Take a Deep Breath Before You Talk About Race’

This was the message that Joy Reid sent to Rand Paul because he was talking about North Carolina new voting requirements.  She takes umbrage that white Paul would talk about something that according to some stats will affect 25% of Blacks who do not have ID.  So where did this information come from? After a little digging I was able to find the source.  The Stats were based on a Survey of 987 people done in 2006 by Brennan Center for Justice at NYU school of law. You can see the survey here.

Some of the sample questions are:

1) Do you have a current, unexpired government-issued ID with your picture on it, like a driver’s license or a military ID?

2) If yes, does this photo ID have both your current address AND your current name (as opposed to a maiden name) on it?

3) Do you have any of the following citizenship documents (U.S. birth certificate/U.S. passport/U.S. naturalization papers) in a place where you can quickly find it if you had to show it tomorrow?

4) If yes, does [that document] have your current name on it (as opposed to a maiden name)?

As you can tell by the questions the survey is geared to getting negative answers, unexpired id’s, current name and address, maiden names, etc.  So the issue is not the lack of ID but that some people do not update their ID’s as they move or get married or let their ID’s expired.  Reid also mentions that waiting in line is to onerous for some people and restricting early voting by one week will cause undue burden, as people might have to wait in long lines.  Is this the best argument, it is a civic duty if you find it that difficult…

The other issue was people who had been incarcerated because of “youthful mistakes”, maybe is time that we stop making it easier for those who keep committing these youthful mistakes and start teaching people of all ages that actions have consequences, whether you are young or old.

In my last post I mentioned the “Black Power” movement that immediately followed the Civil Rights movement.  Both movements had profound influence and effect on our Society and particularly the Black community, but the movements while they coincided towards the end of one, were diametrically opposing each other. The goals were similar, empowering the Black community which had been long oppressed, the way to achieve this was very different.

The Civil Rights movement as led by Dr. Martin Luther King was about achieving equality and assimilation into the larger American Society.  The Black Power movement was about separating the communities and attaining the equality but not assimilation. Instead, it was about demonstrating, embracing the differences, in a way it was Separate but Equal but from a Black perspective.  One was peaceful and was often the victim of violence, the other was willing to use violence to achieve its goals, by any means necessary.  Many of who had participated in the earlier movement, had joined the other due to their disillusion to the other movement.

While many think that the Black Power movement disappeared because of its anti-white, separatist tone the movement never did.  Its Marxist,  Socialist ideas and the feeling that White America had to pay for its past transgressions continue to live today, it is very much a part of the Black political structure.

Perhaps the most memorable aspect of the Black Movement was the Black Panther Party, which serve as a sort of armed wing of the movement.  it also was probably the most responsible for the dying of the movement.  But did is really die or did it just morphed and just became part of the  Black community psyche, at least in the Black Arts, Black Music, and the Inner Cities.

While the leaders of the Black Power movement embraced the idea “that power was the only thing respected in the world”, Dr. King before his death, said the slogan was “a cry for daily hurt and persistent pain” and he was opposed to what he saw some positives in the movement of attaining political and economic power for the Black Community he believe that its followers placed too much emphasis on the negative connotations: black separatism, retaliatory violence, isolationism, and a defeatist attitude.  Which made him argued that; “Black Power was a nihilistic philosophy born out of the conviction that the Negro can’t win” something he rejected vehemently.

Recently Don Lemmons CNN anchor, cause a stir in the Black community by unveiling his 5 things to do by the Black community.

  1. And number one, and probably the most important, just because you can have a baby, it doesn’t mean you should. Especially without planning for one or getting married first. More than 72 percent of children in the African-American community are born out-of-wedlock. That means absent fathers. And the studies show that lack of a male role model is an express train right to prison and the cycle continues. So, please, black folks, as I said if this doesn’t apply to you, I’m not talking to you. Pay attention to and think about what has been presented in recent history as acceptable behavior. Pay close attention to the hip-hop and rap culture that many of you embrace. A culture that glorifies everything I just mentioned, thug and reprehensible behavior, a culture that is making a lot of people rich, just not you. And it’s not going to. That said, though, the political right is not off the hook.
  2. Number two, finish school. You want to break the cycle of poverty? Stop telling kids they’re acting white because they go to school or they speak proper English. A high school dropout makes on average $19,000 a year, a high school graduate makes $28,000 a year, a college graduate makes $51,000 a year. Over the course of a career, a college grad will make nearly $1 million more than a high school graduate. That’s a lot of money.
  3. Now number three. Respect where you live. Start small by not dropping trash, littering in your own communities. I’ve lived in several predominantly white neighborhoods in my life, I rarely, if ever, witnessed people littering. I live in Harlem now, it’s an historically black neighborhood, every single day I see adults and children dropping their trash on the ground when a garbage can is just feet away. Just being honest here.
  4. Number four now is the n-word.  I understand poetic license, but consider this: I hosted a special on the n-word, suggesting that black people stop using it and that entertainers stop deluding yourselves or themselves and others that you’re somehow taking the word back. By promoting the use of that word when it’s not germane to the conversation, have you ever considered that you may be just perpetuating the stereotype the master intended acting like a nigger?A lot of African-Americans took offense to that, too. I wonder if I gave the right advice, I really did. But confirmation came the very next day on my way home when I exited the subway in 125th Street in Harlem. This little kid in a school uniform no older than seven years old, he was crying his eyes out as he walked down the sidewalk with his mother.I’m going to be honest here, she turned to me, and she said “I’m sick of you. You act like an old ass man, stop all that crying, nigger.” Is that taking the word back? Think about that.
  5. Here’s number five. Pull up your pants. Some people, a lot of them black, gave me flak for saying that recently on “The Wendy Williams Show.”  If you’re sagging, I mean — I think it’s your self-esteem that is sagging and who you are as a person it’s sagging. Young people need to be taught respect and there are rules. Sagging pants, whether Justin Bieber or No-name Derek around the way, walking around with your ass and your underwear showing is not OK. In fact, it comes from prison when they take away belts from the prisoners so that they can’t make a weapon. And then it evolved into which role a prisoner would have during male-on-male prison sex. The one with the really low pants is the submissive one. You get my point?

You can watch the video clip or read the transcript HERE:

As some of you might have imagined this list created quite a stir,  even those that agreed in part or with the whole list criticized him calling it overly simplistic and stereotypical, like 95.9 Magic out of Baltimore:

Although what Don Lemon listed rings true I personally do not think that wearing a suit and having a clean community will stop the problems in the black community. This over simplification of a complex issue is why I believe so many people believe that Trayvon deserved what he got. Until we get down to the root cause of the problems in the black community where going to keep spinning this wheel on how to solve a problem we do not understand.

Perhaps the most telling thing about that response is not the admission of a problem, but that they do no understand it or recognize the root cause of it.  Of course,  a black radio station that promotes all things  Black, would not say that the Culture that has evolved out the Black Power movement would blame itself or find itself at all responsible.

One of the most interesting responses to Don Lemmons list came from Russell Simmons.  Mr. Simmons who dresses as if he is going to the Country Club everyday, and has since his early days when he was just a struggling promoter before he hook-up with Rick Rubin in New York in the early 80’s.  I met Mr. Simmons at a couple of events when he was promoting a young rapper Kustis Blow before he hit is big with his younger brother,  who was part of the iconic rapping group RUN-DMC.  Simmons has become a multi-millionaire promoting what they termed as Black music, rapping and hip hop and his line of clothing which Lemmons’ list was an indirect attack on.

He wrote:

Dear Dom,

I got a chance to see what you said over the weekend about black America. At first I thought it was Fox News, but then I remembered you’re a CNN dude. I have nothing against Fox News, as Roger Ailes is my man, but the gospel you were preaching sounded like O’Reilly and Hannity were pulling your strings. Thank goodness my political director, Michael Skolnik, was on the show to stand up for African-Americans, because conservatives love when we blame ourselves for the conditions that have destroyed the fabric of the black community. I respect your courage on many other issues, but I can’t accept that you would single out black teenagers as the cause of their own demise because they don’t speak the King’s English or wear belts around their waistbands.

Right away he launch and attack by implying that Lemmon was being manipulated and used by 2 white correspondents. Bill O’Reailly and Sean Hannity, both who of Fox News, the Left’s boogeyman man.  He continued;

Hip-hop language and clothing styles are expressions of frustration with the status quo. Young people sagging their pants today is no different than young people rockin’ afros, dashikis or platform shoes in the ’60s and ’70s. And many of those rebellious youth grew up to be quite successful… bell bottom-wearing, pot-smoking, Barry Obama became the President of these United States of America and a long-hair, anti-war activist named John Kerry became Secretary of State defending our country in more creative ways than just using violence. They were knee-deep in a rebellious culture, and did anything but integrate into a world that they saw is filled with problems that needed fixing, filled with challenges, or in their mind, with problems that they could fix. And now they are fixing them.

This paragraph demonstrates not just of the historical context of that time but also of the problems that are rampant in the Black community.  He is ignoring that at that time the Black families were still a large component of the community, and those that dd become successful did it through education as most movement were actually part of college life.  Both of those things are sorely lacking in the community right.  Today’s non-conformists,  or rebellious youths,  don’t finish school, have kids out of wedlock, and are more likely to end in the justice system or dead.  Ignoring those differences is part of the reason why the Black community issues are so grave in places.

I want the black kids to grow up and be like you. I want them to know that their imagination is god inside of them and I want all kids, but especially black kids, to have the freedom to dream as well to create their own language. After all, without their jazz, blues, rock n’ roll and now their hip-hop, America wouldn’t even have a language of its own, much less a culture.”

This is how he closed his open letter, but what happens to those young people that dreamed big of becoming the next Jay-Z or the next Michael Jordan and only spoke a language they created if they fail at that.  They can’t leave the hood as they can’t communicate or function outside of their neighborhoods.  He also seems to forget that Black history is American history and such is its culture as hard as they try to separate the two, you would not one without the other, which was ultimately Dr. King’s point.

Don Lemmon responded to Russell Simmons with his own open letter, I can’t the video but it is worth a watch, here the link:

Don Lemmon obviously is taking the Dr. King’s approach to issues that linger in the Black community and others where poverty reigns, he wants everyone empowered to succeed in any community, not to be separate and unequal blame everyone but himself,  an approach that was taken by Simmons and other Lemmon detractors.

Mr. Simmons figured prominently recently because while launching his own Youtube channel, his company produced what was called the “Harriet Tubman” sex tape.  Mr. Simmons called it the funniest thing he had ever seen.  No I will not link to it, not because I don’t think he has the right to make, produce and market his business but because I thought it was very tasteless, extremely stereotypical and insulting to women of any color.  As I said that is Mr. Simmons right, but coming after the uproar after the George Zimmerman trial and days after the a rodeo clown was banned for life from performing at a State Fair because he wore a mask that resemble President Obama the hypocrisy is overwhelming.  Mr. Simmons felt compelled to write in the Huffington Post an article reaffirming the relationship that Blacks had with the Jewish community, after some in the Hip Hop community were directing their anger over the George Zimmerman verdict on Jews, who they mistakenly thought was of Jewish descent.

The same nihilistic, sexist, separatist  element that were present in the Black Power movement are very much alive and evident in the Hip Hop Culture.  Women are objectified, a live for the moment attitude persist.  So while the political structure has disappeared as such, they just moved to the Democratic Party which follows some of the same Marxist lite policies that were prevalent in the movement.

This Black Separatism that had been adopted by mostly the Arts community but also seeped into the consciousness of the community has prevented outside influences from assisting with its problems, it has also meant that anytime as someone such as Don Lemmon or Bill Cosby and many other Black Conservatives suggest assimilation and inclusion as part of the solution they have been marginalized, ridiculed and ostracized. It has also meant that finding a solution has taken a backseat to showing and demonstrating Black Pride and Solidarity, while dismissing everything else as acting White.

I want to close by saying that crime has declined overall,  virtually everywhere with the biggest drops in the Cities,  the problem is that the drop in overall crime has not been for the most part in the Black Communities, which have made the issues more evident.  To make matters worse the solutions being proposed do not address the issues most affecting the community.  For instance the Attorney General initiative to not prosecute certain drug offender violations,  which the Feds don’t prosecute anyway, States handle those but let say that it works, someone with several ounces of Marijuana for instance will not get prosecuted did that lower crime or just give that person an opportunity to commit other crimes to obtain said drugs.  It may lower the number of convictions but does that improve or help the community?

The same thing with the Presidents Executive Order — “White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans” you can read the Order here, but in a nutshell all it does is create another bureaucracy within the Department of Education to look for solutions to Black students under achievement.  Aside from proposing and implying that Black students are disproportionately discipline if fails to address any other issues. No mention of the many single family homes that consist of most of the underachieving students.

It will be difficult for the Black community to effectively deal with their issues, if it ignores how much the culture brought about the Black Power movement, and now being promoted by Hip Hop artist and their promoters contributes to their problems.  It also means that until the black community accepts its own complicity and  that of the Culture that they are so proud of,  its problems will persist, it not just Whitey this time.

Not a Plantation but a Dependency

In previous post I have talked about the NAACP and how it’s mission has changed to now being an organization that only seeks to protects quotas and entitlements but does little to address the issues affecting the a sector of the black community. I also wrote about the old dinosaurs of the Civil Rights movements like Rangel, Jackson and Sharpton who are still using the success of the righteous movement as a reason to remain relevant in today’s society, even when they are more damaging than good.  Their time has passed but they won’t let go, as a result they have become controversial figures that only incite rather than help in most situations.

Now I want to address a different issue, but one that I feel is very important when it comes to race relations and some of the misunderstandings by Whites and other races relating to Blacks. W E B Du Bois wrote in his book Black Reconstruction in America:

All Negroes were ignorant;

All Negroes were lazy, dishonest, and extravagant;

Negroes were responsible for bad government during Reconstruction.

This sentiment written back in 1935, is being echoed again, by some well-meaning people.  The expression that Blacks are still in the Plantation or have never left it are common with a lot of people but it is a bad analogy, one I wish would stop.  It is a bad analogy because it prevents progress by staying in the past.  It is bad because it, in a sense gives Blacks an authority they never had as slaves.  They were not allowed to leave the plantation, so comparing that to Blacks today, means that Blacks cannot improve their situation. Once in the plantation you are there until you die or are transferred to another.  It also gives the impression that being in a plantation is preferable to the alternatives. But worse of all it gives a sense of hopelessness, and a feeling that this is the best that can be aspired as person or a group.  Or it will have an opposite effect and that is rebelliousness and uncaring for the norms of the Society that is keeping them enslaved, if not physically, mentally.

Part of the problem is that the historical context is skewed, to basically concentrate on 3 periods of time. Pre-civil War, Civil rights movement and today.  When things are analysed in this fashion it obscures much of what happened leading up the 50’s and 60’s Civil Rights movement and leaves a large part of story untold.

In 1870 the first census taken after the Civil War demonstrated that several Southern States had more Blacks in their population that Whites with many more where the population was split evenly between the two.  This allowed for the election of Black Congressmen and Senators into the Senate. There were 21 Congressman and 2 Senators elected to serve in Congress during that time.  The passage of Voting Laws, including toll taxes, literacy, and others laws by the Southern Democrats curtailed and eventually caused Black politician to not be elected, even in areas where they still formed a majority.

Though things were getting difficult for Black politicians progress was being achieved in other areas. At the beginning of the 20th they were 75+ Black colleges, illiteracy in Blacks had been dramatically decreased from 95% to 45% and was improving yearly. Those early Black students became the leaders of the increasingly segregated South and served to pave the road for the Civil Rights Movement 50 years later. But most importantly they also were a basis for growing Black communities.

Due to the growing tensions in the South, the great Black migration started at the beginning of the 20th century.  By the 1920’s Blacks had establish communities in many cities in the North. This led to the Harlem Renaissance were African-American culture was celebrated, embraced and enhanced.  Black art and literature works appealed not only to Blacks but the Whites as well.  Many African-American artists became mainstream acts, venues in Harlem were patronize not only by Blacks but White patrons as well.  This movement as opposed to later major Black movements like the Black Power movement aimed as assimilation into mainstream society, and was very successful.  It challenged the views of Black America and was the precursor to the Civil Rights movement.

Large Black middle class communities were established in New York, Philadelphia, Detroit, Chicago and other industrial cities.  Even though discrimination was rampant in the South, in the North is was more abated, though still present, the Black middle class grew and was successful.  Gains in the Black communities continued after the Second World War, as returning GI’s used the GI bill to buy home and gain more education.

During the upheaval of the Civil Rights Movement particularly towards end some changes began that have spelled doom for a sector of the Black community.  A series of riots throughout the country in the late 60’s and early 70’s devastated establish black communities.  This in turn further exacerbated the White flight out of those areas into suburbs but with them the Black middle class left as well.  Leaving behind their poorer cousins to reconstruct these areas with limited success.  The mass exodus was sometimes mitigated by immigrants from other areas but these immigrants were usually poorer than the Blacks they were replacing. The city once the home to a growing Black middle class were now left with the poorer Blacks and minorities, this pattern was repeated throughout the country.

One of the areas that was a beneficiary of this new migration was the South, as many of the Black middle class and professionals returned to the South and helped to re-energized the many southern cities like Atlanta, Charlotte, Greensboro and others.  But they moved to suburbs surrounding the cities, leaving the cities to deal with the poorer, less educated cousins. Other factors also played fundamental roles in bringing us to our current situation. Governmental policy changed with the establishment of the Great Society programs and the Black Power movement that immediately followed the Civil Rights movement.

The Black Power movement contrary to the Civil Rights Movement which was trying to gain equality within the society, was about separatism and black nationalism not assimilation.  For all its attributes whether real or imagined this movement created the sense that Blacks different, that only Blacks could solve their problems and ensured that the White establishment had an excuse to for its lack of involvement in the issues regarding the Black community.  At a time when the Black community was gaining the rights to fully integrate into society, the movement kept Blacks separate from the rest and it also gave rise to other identity based groups in other communities like some Hispanics groups.

The demands of self-determination and empowerment changed to one of requests for more entitlements, which the White Democrats now fully endorsed.  Programs for education, housing, quotas on hiring, government programs.  Almost anything that was requested was granted, but with the separation of repudiation of American values (the Establishment) also came the repudiation of traditional Christian values. The values that had seen the Black community through its worst times were now viewed as chains on the Black men.

That was specially evident in the large cities were promiscuity and fatherless homes became the norm.  Aided by governmental policies that provided aid and eventually replace the male role. In turn males have become more rebellious without a set role. Where the aspirations of males of becoming a father and provider were now of becoming a rap star or athlete.  Education and learning were seen as traditional and “white” aspirations, and not part of the new Black experience.

While many blame bad schools as a cause for the lowered scholastic achievement in the Black communities little is mentioned about the culture that has denigrated schooling as a waste of time and worthless activity since the black man will not be allowed to succeed in those fields outside of the arts and athletics. How many Black families find the money to buy sports equipment, and find the time to attend and even hire coaches for their kids, but don’t spend a dime or get a tutor for kids that are having issues at school.

These issue has ultimately created 2 Black Americas, those that follow in the footsteps of Dr. King and those that do not. Suburban Blacks and inner city Blacks.  The Black Power movement gave rise to a different Black Culture and it is here where the lingering effects of the movement are most evident.  The one on the news and depicted by Black Artists and another quietly trying to rise past all of that, raise families and contribute to society and another that look up to government for all its needs, a dependant constituency that still lives that way today.

The issue of the problems with the Black communities in the inner cities have become more apparent in recent years because of the gains in the Hispanic community who 30 years ago were behind the Black community but have improved generational and have surpassed the Black community to the point they are on almost on par with Whites.

Another reason for the gains in the Hispanic community have been its strong background in traditional families.  A recent survey by the Kaiser Foundation found that only 40% of Black women found being married extremely important, and 33% found it to be not important or very important.   In 1890, 80% of African-American households were composed of two parents. One hundred years later, only 40% of African-American children live in married-couple households. Compared that to 67% of Hispanic children that grow-up in a two parent home, and 70% of White children.  

The collapse of the Black family in the inner cities, have meant that generations of young black males are lacking the support and model of a father figure to help them while growing up.  Black mothers have had to assume the role of mother and father with some success in many cases but far too many times that has proven too much.  The young have to look outside of the home for guidance too often falling into the  willing hands of those that would lead them astray.  It has been here that many Black Leaders have failed the community the most.

For too long these leaders used these kids as a tool to get more political power, to enrich their cronies with grants to form organizations that they embezzled from and whose functions rarely do what they were supposed to do in the first.  Case in point from the Chicago Tribune;

Former state Rep. Constance Howard pleaded guilty Wednesday to diverting as much as $28,000 for her personal and political use from a scholarship fund she created to benefit needy students.

Howard’s “Tee Off for Technology” program raised money through an annual golf outing that was supposed to provide scholarships to people seeking a degree in computer science and related fields.

Howard, 70, entered a plea agreement to one felony count of mail fraud that could net her as much as six months in prison and six months of home confinement. Sentencing was set for Nov. 21.

The Chicago Democrat formerly chaired a House Computer Technology Committee, but she resigned her House seat July 6, 2012. Twelve days later, a federal grand jury subpoenaed a series of records from the Illinois House dating from 2000 to 2007, a period in which she ran the committee, the Tribune reported.

Ms. Howard had been investigated twice before but no charges had been filed, the leadership knew about the other accusations and failed to act on account of the wonderful things that she had done in the past.   Meanwhile the ones that suffer from this are the one that most needed and the taxpayers that financed it.  The same story has been repeated all over the country dozens of times in Detroit, Philadelphia, New York, in the South, all over.

This is one area where the Democratic Party, its leadership have been complicit and are partly to blame.  Often times the issues are uncovered and the Democratic Leadership has put its interest above the constituents that it claims to serve.  The Democrats took a “hands off” approach to dealing with their Black constituents, their most loyal constituency.  It has poured money to resolve the issues that had nothing to do with money but in doing so, it had contained the issue to certain areas.  For all its talk about integration its policies have almost ensure that a large amount of Blacks stay contained in assigned areas and any issues have been left up to the Black leadership to address which they do as has become their custom by requesting more funds, more targeted programs that have proven worthless.

Again from the Chicago Tribune;

As the national debate over gun violence escalates, the Congressional Black Caucus came to Chicago on Friday promising to put together a plan to curb violence in urban areas.

But at the end of the daylong event, many of the solutions they came up with were nothing new to people in neighborhoods hard-hit by crime: They need jobs. They need more educational opportunities. They need after-school programs.

Acknowledging that they did not have all the answers, the legislators said they hoped to leave with fresh ideas to take back to Washington. But they also acknowledged that funding for anti-violence initiatives is scarce, and it remains up to community groups and others to see that any programs are carried out.

They determine they need more government programs, more money to make new studies that are outdated before they are finished, more of the same.  While the Democrats and the Black leadership have to assume the bulk of the blame, Conservatives have also not been active enough in reaching out to the Black community or has it offered any alternatives to the Status Quo and that is to their shame as Republicans were the leaders in gaining equality for our Black American brothers, but now they are just forgotten, and only used to point out the problems of the big government  model of the Democrats.  Once again politics reigns where a community in need is used as pawn by all involved.

In my next post I talk more about the cultural influences in this debate.