News, thoughts and comments on civil rights and related issues.
Saturday, March 20, 2004
Law: Neo-Confederate hero loses legal battle
The saga of the aged, but not improved, Maurice Bessinger, marches on. Longterm readers of Silver Rights will recall the Southern colonel with a fondness for slavery and segregation from previous entries. The septugenarian multimillionaire is in the news again after the courts just said no to another of his frivolous legal sallies.
Bessinger has filed six lawsuits stating various claims that he was wronged by the supermarkets, despite not having a legal leg to stand on. The bulk of the case filed in federal court was dismissed last October. Bessinger had claimed the stores were denying him his right to freedom of speech under the First Amendment by refusing to keep his mustard flavored barbecue sauce on their shelves.
The First Amendment claim was bound to fail for a very basic reason.
Since there is no state action involved in the supermarkets' refusal to carry Bessinger's product, he was barking up the wrong tree to the tune of thousands of dollars in legal fees.
Bessinger's Unfair Trade Practices claim also suffers a basic defect.
Absent a contract with the grocers, Bessinger has no standing to sue under the Act. The stores were free to stop marketing his product at any time and for any reason they wanted to.
In addition, South Carolina caselaw requires the defendants in an action brought under the Act, Title 39, Chaper 5, have adversely impacted the public interest.
The facts of the case fall directly under Noack -- a private dispute, in which the defendants are not having a negative impact on the public interest. An argument could even be made that the grocery stores are acting in favor of the public interest by refusing to contribute to racial tensions in a state with a history of divisiveness.
Maurice Bessinger can afford to continue his frivolous lawsuits. Indeed, if he were not spending the money on legal fees, he might be using it to produce more pro-slavery and pro-segregation propaganda. However, before bringing legal actions reasonable people should consider whether their grievances meet the basic requirements under the statutes or constitutional provisions they think applicable.posted by J. | 6:00 PM
Wednesday, March 17, 2004
American Idol site reflects racism of society
I've rarely watched American Idol. But, it is so omniprescient that anyone who keeps up with current events becomes aware of it. I have been paying attention this time around because a woman from my native North Carolina is currently considered the leader of the pack. Fantasia Barrino is a 19-year-old from High Point (part of the Golden Triangle of textile towns with Greensboro and High Point). She is photogenic, fashion model thin and, of real importance, has pipes. I made my first ever visits to American Idol's message boards to read up on Fantasia. I did learn more about the gifted young woman. But, I also learned or relearned what I already know about Americans. The message the site hopes to convey, one of respect for talent I hope, is marred by the bigotry of the posters. Currently, there are at least a dozen threads attacking Fantasia, the black performers and black judge on American Idol or African-Americans more broadly. Let's consider one of the benighted's entries at length.
Mike is savvy enough to issue a disclaimer that he is not being bigoted before going right on to prove he is. The fellow who posted a competing thread, "It is time for a white boy to win American Idol?" isn't. But, Mike's genuflection to fairness aside, he is anything but. He says:
I find it hard to believe that anyone who is truly a fan of American music can hate the influence of West African music on it. That influence is inextricable. When I say 'it,' I mean all music developed in America -- blues, rock, jazz, pop, country and, of course soul. When someone makes the kind of remark Mike has, I suspect either he is extremely unknowing about the history of American music or he has an agenda other than being a fan.
My understanding is that AI has highlighted different genres of American music by having theme weeks. So, it seems doubtful that Mike's claim that the show only showcases "bellowing" Negroes is based in fact. It may be true that country (and probably jazz) have received less attention than pop and soul. That is to be expected, since American Idol, as a network television program, needs to appeal to as broad and audience as possible. And, that broad audience prefers mainstream music. Interestingly, rap, also a less mainstream genre, has not made great inroads into AI either, But, for some reason, Mike expresses no concern about that.
As for the commentator's belief the American public has been brainwashed to like music derived from the work songs of slaves from West Africa, it seems to me there may have been an element of choice in why Americans, of all ethnicities, have made that music the American sound. Could it be, that to many people, here and abroad, the music sounds good?
Mike finds hope despite his belief that 'jive shriekers' and "donkey kissers" have ruined American Idol. Not just any kind of hope. Great white hope.
He is not alone. On other threads, white performers on American Idol are lauded, not for talent, but for being white. It is a bit of a stretch since some of the bigots, who don't seem to read much, include Justin Guarini (mixed-race, including African-American) and Kelly Clarkson (of Lebanese descent) in their white is right raving.
The responses to Mike's entry vary from agreement to education to the virtual slap upside his empty head he deserves. The educational comments reveal Mike to be not much of an American Idol fan after all. The real fans fill him in about theme nights. (He is blissfully unaware of country music nights, including the upcoming one.) Other commenters tell him about the body of Randy Jackson's work as a producer and a rock bass player. Some of the remarks even address the history of American music. Mike vacillates between trying to back out of the assertions in his entry and making more equally repulsive racist remarks. I concluded he is a bigot, but lacks the backbone to consistently maintain his position under pressure.
It is fashionable to say that the American blight, racism, doesn't impact some areas of our culture. Sport and entertainment are usually offered as examples. But, scholarly examinations of sport and entertainment, particularly of the economic aspects, reveal otherwise. However, one does not have to read a tome about the integration of baseball or a bluesman's biography to see that the blight is just as apparent in those areas as elsewhere. One need only visit Internet message boards and open one's eyes.posted by J. | 6:09 PM
Tuesday, March 16, 2004
Part I: Blogger's metier is misinformation
We last discussed Tom Bux at Silver Rights in regard to attacks he made on black elected officials and the NAACP. Bux is unable to reconcile his bigotry and majority rule in such places as Philadelphia. If it were possible, he would repeal the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. Not that he is capable of discussing the matter in such sophisticated terms. Instead, he claims African-Americans are the real bigots and the NAACP the source of all evil. But, the core of the matter is that he can't stomach the realities of at least political equality. When majority rule means people of color being elected to high positions, he regrets its existence.
But, Bux's reactionary beliefs do not stop with racism, sexism and homophobia. He fears a Great Liberal Conspiracy conspiracy is taking over America. Therefore, he has armed himself with twelve guns. Bux found the most recent evidence of the conspiracy at a public school meeting.
Yes, I am aware of the parade of spelling and grammar errors in the entry. I have chosen not to mar the page with endless sics because Bux's poor writing skills do not interest me nearly as much as his equally poor reasoning skills.
Let's begin with Bux's belief American public schools indoctrinate children to oppose big business. It seems to me just the opposite is occurring, especially at the high school and college levels. Soft drink and junk food companies' vending machine sales are often a significant source of funds. Schools sign contracts excluding competitors from their campuses in return for a share of the proceeds from selling items with no nutritional value to captive audiences. Many colleges have decreased the sizes of or shutdown dining halls in favor of on-site McDonalds and other franchises.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has urged schools to reconsider unrestricted access to soft drinks.
Another way schools slide into the pockets of big business is by selling a la carte cafeteria products. Sometimes, the sales are made through the ubiquitous vending machines. However, fast food products can also be incorporated into the kitchen by buying them in bulk from suppliers. They generate more profit for the schools than nutritional products. Affluent schools in the Atlanta area offer typical choices with typical results.
Food sales are not the only way big business influences schools, but the practice is primary. An effect of the situation is that students, some of them in elementary school, get the message that big business is like Santa Claus -- a provider of goodies. That uncritical thinking may continue for years or a life time. I believe evidence of the cozy relationship between public schools and big business negates Tom Bux's belief that schools indoctrinate children with 'anti big business . . . thought."
Bux continues to ease on down the road of misinformation. Students are, according to him, though I would prefer a more reliable source, being told to write restaurants urging them to go smoke-free. Bux says that means schools are promoting a Leftwing agenda. It seems to me that, if the allegation is true, schools are, in that instance, promoting a health-wing agenda. If not wanting people's health ruined by smoking was only of interest to radicals, I don't believe we would have made the progress we have as a society in regard to curtailing smoking.
I've said time and again that bloggers need to do more research and less running off at the mouth. Assuming that our goal as publishers of weblogs is to purvey information, not misinformation, that should be basic to all of us. However, Bux, like many bloggers, does no research. He mistakes his uninformed opinions for information. Considering Bux's attitude of contempt toward anyone who does not share his paranoia and belief in the Great Liberal Conspiracy, I do not expect him to change. However, perhaps other bloggers will make efforts to support their opinions with facts, and, blog readers will learn to take the Tom Buxes of the blogosphere with a grain of McDonald's prepackaged salt.
For reasons of length and time, I am going to examine Bux's allegations about the American Cancer Society in a separate entry. Since he did not even name the program he claims is being abused by the ACS, I will need to start from scratch. It will take research to find out what really happened. But, I doubt Bux's description of the situation is accurate.posted by J. | 6:00 PM
Monday, March 15, 2004
History: Davis reveals real lives of Southern families
Village Voice writer Thulani Davis (pictured) has produced some intriguing writing as part as her investigation of her ancestors -- both the black ones and the white ones. The native of Virginia comes from a long-lived family. Her grandfathers were slaves. She says history some people (conveniently for them) say should be forgotten, was very alive to her.
Much of her focus is on her great-grandfather's family.
Davis is amazed and amused by the interplay between stereotype and reality. Though much of her white ancestors' descriptions of racial oppression fits right into a neo-Confederate portrait of happy slaves, what her ancestors of color say belies that.
Apparently, the tendency of intelligent, capable women of color who don't know their place to attract the ire of some white people is not new.>
Southern history is still too often viewed through a lens of white privilege. I do not know when Thulani Davis' book will be completed. But, in the interim, I encourage anyone interested in the complex reality of real Southern families to read the articles she is currently publishing based on research into her families -- both black and white.
Learn more about Davis here.posted by J. | 4:58 PM