The Worship of Sports in America

Simply put, Americans take sports way too seriously.

How The Middle-Class Got Screwed (Video)

A most simplistic explanation of how the economic problems of the middle-class has become an actual threat to their well-being.

Why I'm Not A Democrat...Or A Republican!

There is a whole lot not to like about either of the 2 major political parties.

Whatever Happened To Saturday Morning Cartoons?

Whatever happened to the Saturday morning cartoons we grew up with? A brief look into how they have become a thing of the past.

ADHD, ODD, And Other Assorted Bull****!

A look into the questionable way we as a nation over-diagnose behavioral "afflictions."

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Let's Talk About Race, Baby! Conclusion

Continued from Part 2 (http://beyond-the-political-spectrum.blogspot.com/search/label/Race)

As with most things concerning the issue of race in America, the incident between Henry Louis gates and the Cambridge, Massachusetts Police Department, everything was and is about individual and group perceptions. And perhaps no single issue with regarding race illustrates this more than the hot button topic of affirmative action.
Depending on one’s personal views, the policy is either a remedy to redress the socioeconomic inequalities wrought by the historical practice of systemic, institutional, and social discrimination, or a means to further polarize race relations by way of reverse-discrimination. And why should one particular view trump another? Who’s to say which view is valid? Does choosing a side equate sanctimony?
To explore this notion of perspective, Beyond The Political Spectrum interviewed Ward Connerly, the former University of California Regent, and spearhead of a movement to do away with affirmative action as a federally-supported policy.
What makes Connerly’s view all the more controversial—at least to those who oppose him—is that fact that Connerly is an African-American, although he himself frown on racial and/or ethnic-based labels. With consideration to Connerly’s time and space, Beyond The Political Spectrum limited the online interview with Connerly to four questions in regards to his position and opposition to his position.



Former University of California and chairman of the American Civil Rights Institute (ACRI), Ward Connerly. The ACRI is a non-profit organization created to oppose race- and gender-based programs in government hiring and university admissions.








BTPS: Mr. Connerly, I and the rest of America have read or heard a lot about you, including praises from your supporters and aspersions by your critics. In your own words, can you tell Beyond The Spectrum what is your ultimate goal(s) as to Affirmative Action as a public policy, and what motivates you in your goals, both philosophically and personally.

CONNERLY: When discussing “affirmative action,” language is of vast importance, primarily because affirmative action comes in many forms, some of which are admirable – requiring public agencies to open their recruitment, employment, and admissions processes to the largest base of prospective applicants as possible, for example – and some of which are quite odious – applying different standards to applicants based on their “race,” gender and ethnicity or setting aside contracts based on those same factors.

Because you acknowledge no such distinction in your question, it is imperative that I make sure that you understand that my perspective about “affirmative action” differs based on how such policies and programs are structured. I am a proponent of trying to use the levers of government in an “affirmative” way to expand access to low- and moderate-income people and those who have never had a parent go to college, for example – socioeconomic “affirmative action,” if you will. On the other hand, I am opposed to contracts that are aside for “minority-owned” or female-owned businesses or admitting a black applicant to college who has only a “C” grade point average and 780 on the SAT but requiring a Chinese student to have an “A” average and an SAT score of 1480. Practices such as those that I have described that treat people differently have been acknowledged to be “race preferences” by the United States Supreme Court.

It is my objective to do all that I can in the years that remain available to me to eliminate distinctions, in the governmental sector, made between American citizens on the basis of their race, skin color, ethnicity, gender or national origin.
I am motivated by the fact that I am a man who was born in Leesville, LA in 1939 and who has experienced discrimination based on my identity, and I have always considered that unfair and irrational and not in the best interest of a society that professes to be an equal opportunity society.

One would hope that most individuals have something about which they believe strongly and to which they devote their lives. I believe strongly in what is called a “colorblind” government. None of us has a choice about whether we pay taxes or not. Thus, I believe that the government should not treat us differently in view of that circumstance. I am at an age in life in which I think carefully about how I want to use my time and what influence I want to have upon the world that I leave for my children, grandchildren and loved ones. I want them to have an equal chance, not one in which they are treated differently because their father was a “black” man or because two of them have a mother who is half-Vietnamese. That is the driving influence behind my actions.


BTPS: Granted, your aim is to get both the federal and state governments out of the affirmative action business (so to speak), wouldn't that leave the much larger private sector open to instituting or continuing the policy? In that event, would you champion the eradication of affirmative action in the private sector too?

CONNERLY: My objective is to get all government – federal, state, local and public universities as well as privates that use public funds – out of the business of discriminating against or granting “preferential treatment” in the guise of “affirmative action,” as I have defined it above.

I am a libertarian in many respects. Thus, my tolerance for private conduct of which I might disagree is high. Accordingly, I would not champion the eradication of “affirmative action,” however it might be defined, in the private sector.


BTPS: Despite having become the darling of political conservatives with your anti-affirmative action initiatives, The American Conservative magazine's September 2008 issue seemed to impugn your motives with regards to your drive to promote anti-affirmative action ballot initiatives, including innuendos of hypocrisy of your private consulting firm, Connerly and Associates, having benefited from being "registered with the state as a minority- and woman-owned business." To what do you attribute this revelation (as it were) to?

CONNERLY: During my lifetime, I have learned that no political ideology has a monopoly on being wrong. For example, when I led the effort to give equal health benefits to same-sex couples while serving as a Regent of the University of California, I assure you that I was not regarded as the “darling of political conservatives” by the many “conservatives.”

It is fundamentally flawed to view all “conservatives” as being alike. Some conservatives support affirmative action. Some use litmus tests and if you fail the test on specific issues, they seek to distance themselves from the individual whom they regard as being out of step. There are also those who believe that the author of the column that appeared in the issue of the American Conservative magazine to which you make reference had an agenda in writing his piece. I would also hasten to add, however, that American Conservative magazine is a small, struggling publication that is not in any way the voice of conservatives. The attitude conveyed by the author and the “innuendoes” he imparted are not shared by more mainstream conservative publications such as National Review and Weekly Standard.

More significantly, the claims asserted by the author of that article are inaccurate. First, Connerly & Associates, Inc. is not, nor has ever been, a firm “registered with the state as a minority- and woman-owned business.” This could have been verified. The fact that it was not casts considerable doubt on the good faith and credibility of the author. Second, the claim was made that I am a registered lobbyist. I have never been a lobbyist in my life. This, too, could have been verified. Third, it has been claimed that my firm and the American Civil Rights Institute are somehow doing the bidding of major construction interests. In fact, I have been inactive in my firm for over four years and ACRI receives less than three percent of its financial support from construction and/or real estate interests.

It is worth questioning why my motives for opposing race preferences are sometimes questioned, but the motives of those who support preferences are presumed to be noble. Moreover, why is the issue of motives even relevant? Assuming that either mine or those who oppose my position are foul, what bearing would this have on an issue that is raging throughout the nation, even at the level of the United States Supreme Court? There is almost the impression that if I were not “driving” this issue, it would somehow go away. In fact, however, “race” is always a contentious issue and those who oppose distinctions by the government on the basis of such a factor have history and the law on our side. Thus, our motives for wanting to advance the cause of equal treatment should not be questioned.


BTPS: It seems your working toward the dismantling of affirmative action policies is something of a top-down approach. Philosophically speaking, given the preponderance of socioeconomic inequalities found throughout many areas of society, wouldn't a more philosophically & politically unassailable tactic be to work from the bottom-up, working to create better public school educational programs, working with employers to limit discriminatory practices, and/or to work with established organizations that oppose your stance...and then eliminate affirmative action?

CONNERLY: There is a strong bias in your question that places the burden of equal treatment on a host of other factors: elimination of “socioeconomic inequalities,” elimination of employer discrimination, and gaining the support of other organizations that oppose my stance as a precondition to urging enforcement of the laws that command equal treatment for all citizens “without regard to race, sex, color or national ancestry,” which happens to be the requirement of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. There is also the implied acknowledgement in your question that “affirmative action” is more than equal treatment; it is remedial in nature, something that the Supreme Court is increasingly viewing with disfavor. Equal rights and equal justice are not “top-down” or “bottom-up” values; they are not contingent on other socioeconomic conditions. Having said that, I am actively involved on many fronts in an effort to assist those who need assistance in improving their economic conditions, but I feel no obligation to unilaterally correct social disparities as a prerequisite to the pursuit of the objective of equal treatment for all.

Without spending too much time on Connerly’s view, even if one disagrees with his position, one must be impressed with both the eloquence by which he is outlines his position, as well as his overall goal of eliminating racial distinctions. Although in principle, I totally agree with his view that the best qualified students and job applicants should be the ones hired selected for slots and positions, can one truly hope to “eliminate distinctions?” Realistically-speaking, in all but the rarest of situations, our very names convey our ethnicities as well as our genders. And given how we as groups and individuals see ourselves in relation to our individual and group pasts, our collective experiences, and our sense of solidarity, is it even possible to eliminate the nuances of race- (or gender- for that matter) based identity? Lastly, how much sense does it make to allow--assuming that Connerly is successful in eliminating affirmative action--a segregated system of preferences in the private sector, while prohibiting them in the government sector? The simple matter is that even if people aren't allowing one another a non-competitive edge based on race or gender, they will invariably find another reason to favor one individual over another...perceived competency, the ability to dribble or throw a ball, manufactured charisma, one's alma mater, a mutual love of a particular sports teams...the reasons are potentially endless. Despite Connerly’s laudable goal of eliminating race-based distinctions in government and education, one can literally drive several trucks between his perceptions and ideas of what and how affirmative action should be and what the reality is for many people on the ground as it were; one can spend endless hours listening to those individuals of color who have war stories—similar to those black males who can tell them, a la Professor Gates’ experience—of how they did not get the position they were qualified for (all other factors being equal) due to the hue of their skins.
As with most issues in America, too many people are too quick to wed themselves to a particular structured, in some cases rigid political ideology. This dynamic tends to create a sense of allegiance to a particular ideology rather than to the search for meaningful answers, or to real solutions that offer a hope of real promise. In Connerly's case, he identifies with being a libertarian (although I suspect that he perceives his adherence to that particular ideology to be flexible). In the case of others, its being liberal, conservative, moderate, or what have you. In the worse scenario, adopting an ideologically-slanted view of an issue tends to forge a mindset of equating one's view with being "right," as exemplified by the aforementioned conservative commentator Michelle Malkin, who apparently has never met an ideal outside of conservatism she liked; one can only pity such a narrow view.
In an ideal world, race would not matter in employment, in education, and in encounters with the police. However, given the realities of an imperfect world and our individual perceptions, it does matter...whether we want to admit it or not. Faking indignation at that fact doesn't change its reality. Wanting to believe the best of America's promise in relation to its past doesn't erase perceptions in those who hold opposing views. For individuals like Connerly, the notion of "Civil Rights" is predicated on the idea that everyone should be treated equal, despite race. For many blacks and others who adhere to the traditional application of the idea, it implies the notion of cut us some slack...haven't we been through enough already?
With regards to race, for most of us, perception is the only "reality" that matters.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Let's Talk About Race, Baby! Part 2

Continued from Part 1 (http://beyond-the-political-spectrum.blogspot.com/search/label/Race)

If anyone wants to see how truly polarizing the issue of race is in this country, one needn’t venture any further than the Internet. Brimming with vitriol and diatribes about how whites are unrepentantly racist “devils,” and how blacks should “get over the past,” the ‘net is an excellent barometer for measuring the depth of discontent which lies below the surface of the thin veneer of social calm we perceive, especially in light of the election of the nation’s first African-American president. Indeed, I have seen several Internet postings with regards to the Henry Louis Gates arrest that suggested that African-Americans “have their black president now…time to move on.”
Such remarks reveal the inability (or undesirability) to understand in any appreciable way the experience of being a racial minority in America from a historical perspective. And what’s truly sad is that such individuals will be the first to tell you that “some of their best friends are fill-in-the-blanks.” Part of this mindset is due to the attitude that some racial groups, blacks in particular, are being placated in order to prevent inflaming our over-sensitive natures in regards to perceiving any slight as having racial under-or overtones.
For blacks, who seem to often exhibit the highest numbers of many socioeconomic ills, we fail to understand that whites and others see us as not doing our part to create the lives for ourselves that they and others have succeeded is doing for themselves. The “I-did-it, why-can’t-you-do-it” mentality is how we are viewed and judged. And it only roots this perception in the white psyche further when high-profile figures such as comedian Bill Cosby and black conservatives point out that we indeed are the masters of our fates, and captains of our souls, to paraphrase the fine line from the poem, Invictus.
Even when noticeable numbers of individuals in each group prove these competing perceptions can be somewhat valid, their numbers are underplayed; guilty whites will often act indignant when confronted by the reality of their insensitivities, and blacks in denial will tell you that the social pathologies such as exceedingly high teen pregnancy, crime, drug use, and dropout rates that are a way of life for many in inner-city neighborhoods represent “only a few of us.” We simply cannot put ourselves in the mindsets of how and why we view each other.
It doesn’t help the underlying issue of race relations when others take further advantage to help polarize sides. Conservative Asian-American commentator, Michelle Malkin wasted little time in adding fuel to the fire of the Gates incident by castigating the “Anti-police bias of the Liberal Left.” With respect to Ms. Malkin’s position, her dividing of the incident along politically and ideologically dogmatic lines is every bit as divisive and unethical as the “race baiting” which she accuses others of doing with regards to the incident. And doing so ignores an entire history of police abuse in black and minority neighborhoods. It’s partially why the militant Black Panthers were formed in the mid- to late 1960s….to combat not the perception, but the reality of police brutality which was at one time rampant in the black communities of major urban areas.
Sadly but understandably so, what happened to Amadou Diallo, Abner Louima, Oscar Grant, and Rodney King strikes a resonate chord in many black males like myself. And to reduce vocalizing rational fears that permeate throughout black and minority neighborhoods to gutter-level labels like race-bating smacks of not only ignorance, but of insensitivity to the perspective of others, no matter how valid. But in the days since the Gates incident went on to become a national media obsession, homemade signs have popped up in front of Gates’ Cambridge residence, reinforcing the notion that Gates is a “race-baiter,” how he should be “ashamed,” and the like. Clearly, history has given blacks and whites a different view of not only race relations, but of their civil liberties in regards to the law and to the police; not many black and minority citizens would have the courage to create and place demeaning signs in yards of well-to-do or affluent neighborhoods for fear of arrest.


Was Professor Henry Louis Gates--on his own property surrounded by several police officers (including Sgt. Jim Crowley, the arresting officer)--any more belligerent or "disorderly" than this overly-irate driver, on a public highway, with a single officer who couldn't have been aware of the driver's intent? Could a black or minority driver had gotten away with this behavior without having been pepper-sprayed, tasered, or arrested? Does the officer represent professional or exemplary behavior (is this what it means for an officer to be "thick-skinned?")



To Be Concluded...

Friday, July 24, 2009

Let's Talk About Race, Baby! Part 1

It’s been said that there are three sides to every story…yours, mine, and the truth.

In America the issue of race, much like a social disease, is one of those things that people would wish would just go away. But like herpes, it’s a chronic pathology with occasional outbreaks which remind the body public that there is an underlying problem in our society.
Its also one of those subjects—like certain diseases—that has been studied, explored, analyzed, and scrutinized; one would be hard-pressed to reject the notion that just about anything and everything that one can say or write about the issue has been done so. So why is it that, such as in recent weeks, whenever we are reminded that the country has unfinished business insofar as confronting the legacy of its volatile racial past that we fall back into our usual, predictable roles? Take for example the arrest last week of noted Harvard scholar and preeminent expert of African-American history, Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. The resulting public opinion polls, blogsophere commentary, and radio/television talk shows revealed nothing surprising; opinions were divided mostly along racial lines.


Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr., shortly after his arrest and the dropping of the "disorderly conduct" charges

While many African-Americans—especially males—could relate to Gates’ experience, whites generally were to quick to defend the actions of the police officers who arrested Gates, some embracing the idea that Gates' behavior solely controlled the outcome of the situation. Other opinions go so far as to label Gates a "race-baiter" with regard to the incident. The problem is that very few individuals are able or willing to think or consider perspectives that are not influenced by their own experiences.
Just as men and women tend to think and perceive experiences differently, so too do African-Americans and whites. Many blacks, myself included, have war stories about our less-than-pleasant, legally questionable treatment at the hands of the police. Our experiences are often such that we know that a threat to be arrested for “disorderly conduct” is nothing more than punishment for failing to acknowledge or for questioning a police officer’s authority. For many of us, strength of personality or propensity to assert our civil liberties in the face of questionable situations involving the police are offenses punishable by arrest. It’s pretty much like when certain government agencies or officials use the phrase “national security;” it’s a catch-all phrase used to maintain autonomy in the face of an equal, challenging, or superior authority, in this case being us--the public whose very taxes pay for the police to serve and protect us. And in a few of the cases that I’ve personally been privy to, arrests are often justified by some colorful embellishments of the truth on police reports (and no, this reality does not in any way mean to imply that every African-American has only negative experiences with the police).
For many whites—unless they are known criminals—the experience of being pulled over or of being confronted by a police officer tends to yield different results, as well as different perspectives of the police altogether. This is obvious by the way in which whites tended to assume to role of devil’s advocate for the policemen involved in the Gates incident. This point is further supported by the way whites generally reacted to the words of President Obama, as he opinioned that the Harvard police "reacted rather stupidly." This is not to say that the officer in question, Sgt. Jim Crowley, did not act within the scope of his authority…after all, neither you nor I were there to witness events as they unfolded. But Crowley’s authority as a representative of the law, his unblemished service record, and his police academy responsibility for teaching police how they can avoid racial profiling not only give him nearly unfettered credibility in this case, but also entrench already divided opinions on the issue. Throw in the black historical experience in America, and sides are often chosen up without the benefit of reason.

Sgt. Jim Crowley, after the arrest of Gates

According to opinions flooding the blogosphere, most whites generally believe that the entire episode was blown out of proportion, and that blacks are being overly sensitive. And it's probably a sure bet that blacks feel the same way over whites' heated responses to President Obama's remarks....that they're simply being overly "sensitive" to someone's opinion. Could Gates have been as belligerent and unruly as the police report states? Sure. Is it possible for some officers of the Cambridge Police Department to have embellished the actual events leading up the Gates' arrest in a light favorable to them? Quite possible. For both blacks and whites, we see our perceptions of race mostly through the prism of our individual and collective experiences, which is the only source of "truth" that matters for most or us.

To Be Continued...