Dr. King Would Feel Better

Today marks the 44th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. It seems that I make this almost an annual thing on both this blog and my business blog, where today I wrote on the topic of 5 Things Dr. King Wouldn’t Be Happy About. Last year on this blog I wrote on what I saw was a different take on things concerning the date and how little things have changed.

I’m slightly modifying that this year. I’m modifying it because of what’s been going on the last couple of weeks, and how it signifies, in some way, just how things have changed.

I’m talking about the Trayvon Martin case in Florida and all that’s happened because of it. Unfortunately there’s still no real resolution of what’s gone on down that way. The guy who killed him is still out of jail, and police chief has temporarily stepped aside, and the police are trying to make out like this kid was the instigator of his own demise; police will be police I’m afraid.

There’s been a major movement in this country over this case, and what’s fascinating about it is that no one has been killed over it. There hasn’t been any riots. Cities across the country have held some kind of rally in support of this kid, even here in Syracuse. It’s talked about almost every night on the news, both national and local.

Back in 1968, Martin’s story wouldn’t have made the news anywhere. No one put anything about black people on the news unless it was something major. Back in 1968, after Dr. King was killed, people went on a rampage all over the country. The police and military went on alert. For days it was scary, even for us little kids. I lived in the suburbs so I was isolated, but from what I hear things were tense in the city, though I’m not sure if there were riots or not; that had happened years earlier.

People are actually talking this time around. The conversation is about racism in general. The conversation is about guns and the rights of gun owners. The conversation is about youth culture and profiling; come on now, hoodies? The conversation is about the difference between protecting oneself and stalking and provoking someone into action so you can feel justified in killing them. The conversation is about how the police sometimes cover things up. The conversation is about a search for truth, justice, and the American way; yes, I had to work a Superman quote in there.

This is how things should happen. We should all be able to talk about things we don’t like, talk about things that scare us, talk about change, talk about difficult topics in the open. True, it’s not happening everywhere. Goodness, I’m surprised to find so many people who, when I mention it, say “Who?” Now there’s a level of oblivion I’ll never understand.

And it’s in this spirit that I write my Black Web Friday series going right now. It offers the chance for people to get to know each other and open a conversation. It offers the chance for all of us to grow together.

The first link above talks about what Dr. King might not be happy about. I think he’d be happy that for once people are talking peacefully; that’s never a bad thing.

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The Lament Of An Old Black Radical

This is one of those posts where I’m not expecting a lot of commentary because it’s going to be hard for a lot of people to relate to it. It’s not a ramble, and it’s not necessarily a rant, though there’s some rant in it. It’s basically a post where I just have to have my say; some people might be uncomfortable with it.

On Tuesday while on Twitter, I retweeted something that was posted stating that there are more black men in prison now than there were people in slavery back in 1850. Within an hour one of my local friends kind of discounted it, at least in my mind, by saying the physical numbers of people are different now than they were back then.

I had a quick flash of anger for many reasons. One, I felt like it was another white person discounting something because it was about black people. Two, I’d been reading about some mess with aged idiot Pat Buchanan, who’s on tour promoting his new book that basically says diversity in America is going to “wipe out white people”; I mean, what the hey? And he had just finished promoting it on a white supremacist radio program, which I didn’t even know existed outside of Rush Limbaugh (yeah, I said it!).

But there’s a three, and it’s a hard one to deal with. I’m going to call it the lament of the old black radical, which is kind of how I feel at times. I’m not as bad a radical as Tavis Smiley and Cornel West have turned out to be (for those who don’t know them, they’re both black radicalists, for lack of a better term, that believe President Obama should be beholden to them and every other black person in America just because we’re all black, yet don’t realize that the reason he’s not giving them the time of day is because they started trashing him even before he was elected president and have both lost some of their most ardent former supporters at this point, which includes me). But I’m holding onto things that I just can’t let go at this stage, late 2011, because I truly believe things haven’t really changed all that much from 1971.

What, 1971? Yup, that’s when I read my first book on black history, the shortened version of a biography of Frederick Douglass. That got me going, and for the next 10 years I read all sorts of books on black heroes and leaders and history and the like. At times I was the angry guy because people I knew kind of wanted to avoid looking at it and wanted to dismiss it. After all, early on I was living on an air force base in Maine, where I found few people who’d even talk with me about it, and then I moved to Liverpool NY, where the school had more than 3,800 kids but maybe only 50 of us were black. In college my first two years I was the only black kid in my dorm, and I think by my last year there might have been 7 or 8 of us in the dorm. There were so few black people on campus that one of the theater professors, who did happen to be black, put on the play Harriet Tubman yet asked every black student he saw to be in it, including me; wasn’t happening, but I did go see it.

Yet, Oswego State, where I went to college, had an African-American Studies program, and the head of the department was one Dr. Alfred Young. He embodied the spirit of the radical, from the long sideburns to the beard to the long fingers that had that Malcolm X point to them. I took almost every one of his classes, as that was my minor, and we’d debate things in class that no one else ever participated in, probably because I doubt any of them had read the books I’d read before coming to college. And it was fun; I had my outlet, I had my statistics, and I was ready to go at anyone who violated my “blackness”, to a degree. I say it that way because if I’d only had black friends in college I’d have been a lonely guy. lol

I had lots of friends, and lots of other people who knew who I was; it was kind of easy to be known by a certain point. I got lots of invites to parties and lots of free food and milkshakes and loved it. I had a white girlfriend I loved, and because the one really hot black girl in college didn’t date black men; go figure. lol Yet I got to be the black guy, the one many people came to and asked stupid questions, the one who’d field the stupid statements like “I don’t think of you as black” and think it was a compliment until I set them straight. I was the one who told them how Ronald Reagan didn’t care about black people and how John Wayne had said black people made bad actors because they weren’t all that smart and how Lincoln didn’t free the slaves and Jim Crow laws and many other things.

And then it was a time of many firsts. I was almost always the “first” or only in many things, and it continues even to this day, which seems a bit strange. And as I said earlier, not all that many things have changed when we look at positives, but the moods have changed. There’s no such thing as a black leader anymore. There’s no such thing as true advocates for black issues. Goodness, in a strange way black people are more of a minority than ever as Hispanics (or Latinos; take your pick) have passed us in numbers; if they ever figure out how to become a true political base many present politicians will be out of jobs. Black unemployment is the highest in the country; blacks in prison by percentage is the highest in this country. Black educational scores are the worst in this country. Most of the businesses in black communities aren’t owned by blacks. And, just to throw this in, one black Republican in Congress… just saying. Goodness, Clarence Thomas and Herman Cain don’t even want to be known as black; what the hey?

No one really cares anymore. And I lament that in some fashion. When did things pass me by to the extent that it can still be bad, or worse, and on one cares? Why haven’t I been able to let it go? How come I still feel like I have to keep my shields up when I’m in public, not only to make sure I don’t get jumped from behind in a sneak attack but being prepared for that time when someone might say something insensitive that I didn’t see coming? How do I react with a young white kid pulls up next to me at a gas station with a rap song blaring loudly with a lot of filth, misogyny and the n-word (I was going to actually type it but decided not to go there) being said over and over and then he looks at me? What could that kid be thinking? Is he thinking? And how am I supposed to feel instead of feeling insulted and overlooked and insignificant at the same time?

Goodness, I’m only in my early 50’s and I feel so out of touch sometimes. How is it that I touched a nerve when I wrote my first post on 21 Black Social Media Influencers yet when I wrote the followup 29 More Black Social Media Influencers it barely made a dent? Why is it that some younger black people, even some my age, are now telling me that it’s not up to me to try to save the black race, or to even think about trying to help it out, and that I don’t have to worry anymore about trying to set a good example because no one cares about it anymore? Why is it hospitals talk about diversity all the time yet there’s less than 3% black management, not including C-level positions where the figures even worse, in the entire country? And where do I fit in?

Sigh… as I said, this is the lament of an old black radical; I should have added “tired”. Do I ride off into the sunset? Do I continue to fight the good fight when presented? I don’t know; I don’t have any answers. And there’s no one to talk to about it either; sigh again…

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King Assassination Anniversary; A Different Take On Things

Today is the 43rd year after the assassination on Dr. Martin Luther King. I’ve written about it in previous years on two blogs of mine, but I’m kind of going a much different route this year, a bit more controversial and kind of a departure for me. But it seems some things have to be said, some truths confronted, and heck, I’m in the mood to do it.

I have been privy lately to reading a lot of, and participating in quite a few, conversations related to minorities online. The major question has been why there aren’t any minorities recognized as A-list bloggers or gurus online if you will. Of course, that kind of generalized statement always gets challenged by the same people who, when people ask why there aren’t more black millionaires, say “look at all the athletes and entertainers”; please! In reality, 43 years after Dr. King, in the realm of being known by a lot of people minorities in general haven’t broken through online. Many people can name one or two, and that always reminds me of “Hey, I have a black friend.” And trust me, I’m not being sensitive; it happens across the board, even in technology.

The overall reality is that one shouldn’t expect that things will be different online than they are in the real world. For instance, there are only 3 black CEOs of Fortune 500 companies; at least in the past, as I haven’t seen the latest list yet. There aren’t any latinos or Asians at all as far as I can tell. Still, out of 500 there’s not even 10% minority representation; that’s a shame in this century.

Then again, it follows a pattern. The other day new unemployment stats came out saying unemployment went down to 8.8%; however, for black people it went up to 18%. For every other minority it also went up; what the heck is that all about? Well, I know, but I’m not saying right now.

Suffice it to say, there hasn’t been any “overcoming” so far. Yet, for all the laments on things that seem to be going against minorities, we don’t get a free pass on this. Bill Cosby was right; we’re doing a lot of this to ourselves overall. I’m not sure if you’ve heard that Latinos now number 50 million in the United States, which is pretty powerful. Yet, for all that power, they can’t get together to vote as a block and effect any change for their community. If they did, you wouldn’t have all this trash going on in Arizona. And if black people were acting right, you wouldn’t end up with incidences like this abhorrent mess in Cleveland, TX, where an 11 year old was raped and many of the people in town are blaming her; what the heck? And then it happened again in Riverside, CA.

Frankly, there’s a lot of blame to go around, and thus one can’t put all the weight on fixing any perceived or real issues on one group or another. However, I’m irked today, which is why I’m posting the video below, even though I’ve thought long and hard as to whether or not I should do it. In the end, I figure it had to be done, and it had to be said, and I’m just glad it’s not coming from my mouth. It’s from a Boondocks episode where Martin Luther King Jr actually came back to life and got a look at some of the “progress” his trials and tribulations had actually brought us to. I hope overall that this isn’t as good as it gets, but this little “speech” is as truthful as it gets… for now, as I acknowledge year #43:

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Content Of One’s Character; Major Fail

One of the beauties of writing most of one’s blog posts ahead of schedule is that when something really strikes you all you have to do is change the posting dates around so you can tackle something new. This one’s going to be kind of a rant post, so if you’re not up for that then wait until tomorrow.

Last week there was a post on the Problogger blog that kind of irked me a little bit. I don’t even remember the person’s name who wrote it, as it was a guest post, and frankly I’m not going to go back and look it up. However, the topic was 40 blogs to watch in 2011 or something like that.

The first comment the post got was wondering where all the people of color were. That comment didn’t get a lot of positive responses; actually it got none. Someone else alerted me to the post, and me being me, as someone who talks about diversity issues, I popped over to check things out. The list was nice enough, but from what I could see, there was one Asian lady and that was pretty much it. Someone wrote that one of the other people on the list was Indian; I couldn’t tell based on what I saw.

Frankly, I didn’t have a problem with the list itself. After all, everyone has the right to list whomever they want to list and follow whomever they want to follow. But some of the comments irked me greatly. So I decided to pop my own voice into the mix in support of the first person who commented, saying that there weren’t any black people on the list from the United States, and thus it wasn’t an overly inclusive list.

That didn’t go over well, which I still didn’t care about. One lady actually wrote that if she had tried to be inclusive that it would have been a racist post; what the heck? Inclusion is now racist? That comment didn’t sit well with me either, so I pretty much said that, along with some other stuff. Then some kid, and it had to be a kid, wrote a response to me that ended with “bitter old man”.

Well, there it was. I had a lot of responses that I thought about writing back, but I decided not to. After all, it was already proven that there wasn’t going to be any kind of discourse on the subject. It was going to be accusations back and forth; frankly, I don’t have to go somewhere else for that; I can get it right here, or on my business blog.

I really don’t talk about race all that often on this blog. According to my categories, I’ve only talked about it specifically 6 times in more than 900 (almost 950) posts. I didn’t even consider it as a category when a month ago I wrote a post on 8 Top Black Individual Blogs because in my mind it wasn’t as much about race as about acknowledging some folks that many others might not know all that well.

The truth is that there are a lot of black bloggers out there, a lot of Asian bloggers, a lot of… well, you get my drift, minority bloggers. The other truth is that when it comes to mainstream mentions of bloggers, black bloggers are almost never mentioned. Asian bloggers are; well, it’s nice to see that one group has broken through anyway.

Most people will usually find themselves gravitating towards others who share something with them. In general I’m a lot like everyone else; in general, that is. I don’t find myself hanging with a beer drinking, cussing, smoking dart throwing crowd that listens to country music. Actually, I don’t have a crowd. I have individual friends with whom I share some things with. Most of the time they don’t interact with each other; that’s somewhat strange in principle, but that’s how my life has always gone outside of sports when I was younger.

Overall, I’m about inclusion. I follow a lot of people with a lot of different background. I have lots of interests so I’m all over the place. Except for that one list of black bloggers, most of the time when I’ve listed folks there’s been a mix of some kind, not conscious, just because it is. Not always, but then again, if I’m writing about 5 people it’s probably a more finite list than writing about 40.

Goodness, even Chris Brogan, someone I’ve enjoyed reading over the past couple of months, had a post near the end of 2008 where he highlighted 17 bloggers to follow in a post of his (titled 8, but he mentioned 9 others) and not one of them was a person of color. Like I said, people can highlight who they want to highlight, but really, there’s not a place for anyone of color on any top lists? Do we really go back to what Al Campanis said about the dearth of black executives in baseball, back in 1987, which began with “It’s just that they may not have some of the necessities…”

Why am I talking about all of this stuff today? In the United States it’s the Martin Luther King, Jr holiday, and back in 1963, at a march on Washington D.C., in his famous ‘I Have A Dream’ speech, he stated these words: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

Overall, we still haven’t reached this point. Sure, we have Barack Obama, we have athletes and musicians, and of course I thank y’all for checking me out from time to time. But we’re the anomalies; we’re not the norm. What’s the norm? I’m not really sure. I will say this, though. When I see more Mitch Allen’s, more Kissie’s, more Vernessa’s, more Evelyn’s, more Beverly’s, more Johanna’s, more Rummuser’s, more Marelisa’s, and more Ching Ya’s, I’ll really think we’ve achieved at least a semblance of balance and inclusion.

And trust me, those aren’t the words of a bitter old man, just someone who’s asking to see more of what Dr. King was asking for, which he ended up giving his life for. Is it really too much to hope for?

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Loyal Blue Not So Loyal

Facebook has an interesting feature as it pertains to groups nowadays. It seems you can create a group on almost any topic, then go around and add people to it. And, if those people like it, they can add other people as well. The best thing about it is that anything said in these groups can be closed if the moderators want to keep it “safe” for the participants to express themselves freely, and thus it won’t show on your page, or they can open it up and, like Facebook business pages, what’s said will show up in your stream, which opens up the possibility of other people seeing it and joining in.

by Steve Jurvetson

I was added to one of these groups, one called Loyal Blue. It was a group for people whose political stance is liberal. I’m fairly liberal for most things, but certainly can’t be called a bleeding heart. I won’t get into too many details because this isn’t a post about politics; at least not directly.

Initially it seemed like it was going to be a fairly safe group to talk about some issues amongst ourselves and only talk to other people who believed as I do. Some might think that discourse ends when everyone agrees on everything, but I tend to believe that everything starts with people agreeing with each other, and then shades of disagreement help to flesh things out.

And things were going along well until there was an interesting post related to a blog post someone wrote on race and politics and this year’s elections. It was a pretty good post, linking to an article on another blog, as I went to read it, and I left a fairly innocuous comment and moved on with life. What happens is you get notified whenever someone comments on a post you’ve commented on, so eventually I went back to that post, only to see that what I’d written wasn’t there any longer. I thought that was strange, so I rewrote the post, thinking that maybe I hadn’t left it at all. Later on, I wrote a different comment on the same post, and left once more. Then when I went back I not only saw that my post was gone, but someone else had obviously written something and had their post deleted at least once, and they mentioned it and said they were out of there. At this point I got it and decided to leave as well.

The initial point I have to make here is that it’s ridiculous for any group to just delete comments they don’t like that have to do with a topic. For instance, every comment I saw,including mine, was on point with the original post. The creator of the group had left something saying he believed any conversation that touched upon race should be somewhere else. This person is black; did this person forget that the president of the United States happens to be black as well? If ever there was a time for this country to come to grips in talking about race, it’s now.

The second point I have to make is that no one gets to decide that race needs to be discussed in only one place and not everywhere else. I haven’t discussed race all that often on this blog but I easily could. In America, race permeates almost every major decision that’s made in this country; trust me on this one. I could point it out almost everywhere. But I don’t because, well, this blog would take on a decidedly different tone and that’s not what I want to achieve here. But I’ll certainly point it out when I need to, such as during the presidential election when I showed this video from Ohio; shameful stuff.

Finally, my third point is that if you’re going to censor stuff, you should make sure what’s being censored deserves it. The only thing I would censor on this site is bad language, which I’ve never had to do, and posts that I know aren’t related to the topic and are meant to inflame. Anything else, you can disagree with me and I’ll leave it here for the world to see. That and, if it seems like it needs one, I’ll write a post about it and see where that goes as well. That’s what this post is about; they can censor me on their Facebook group, but they can’t censor me on my own blog.

Nope, Loyal Blue wasn’t so loyal to the people who contributed to it, and that’s a shame. That’s not what social media is supposed to be about. Luckily, there’s another outlet, and I know the person and she has promised to never delete any comments unless they’re personal attacks. That’s good enough for me; now there’s loyalty.

And it made me write two posts in one day; way to go!

The Loudest Duck
by Laura A. Liswood

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