News, thoughts and comments on civil rights and related issues.
Thursday, August 26, 2004
News: Policeman who killed unarmed man resigns
Sometimes the best thing a person can do in regard to a job is quit it. Yes, I said 'quit,' not 'get.' If someone is not suitable for a position, he should recognize he isn't. If his unfitness might cause harm to other people, he should act on that knowledge as soon as possible. A Portland cop implicated in the shooting of an unarmed motorist has done just that. He says the shooting, and community anger at him, did not influence his decision. The Oregonian reported his resignation yesterday.
Sery was the second white police officer to shoot a black motorist in Portland, Oregon, in a matter of months. The situation was described at Mac-a-ro-nies.
Sery says that he is leaving the police force to become a minister. I am not sure what to make of that. I've known people who have used religion as a foundation for compassion and caring for others. But, I've also known people who use religion as a confirmation of their own self-righteousness. Not only do they approve of whatever they do, they believe God does, too. Though, predictably, Sery was not held accountable for killing Perez, the circumstances of the shooting are enough to give a reasonable person pause. Sery's record of pulling and pointing his weapon at unarmed people confirms one's doubts. I believe metropolitan Portland will be a safer place with Jason Sery wearing vestments instead of carrying a gun.posted by J. | 9:00 PM
Tuesday, August 24, 2004
Commentary: Understanding reparations for slavery
Someone recently posted an entry lambasting the idea of reparations for slavery, and, claiming African-Americans benefitted from one of the most monstrous acts in history, to a large blog. He stopped short of calling for the re-enslavement of African-Americans, but that would be the outcome if one took his beliefs seriously. Why end a good thing? Since the entry was posted to a Right Wing blog, Blogcritics, the perpetrator has supporters. The site's owner, Eric Olsen, refused to take issue with the overtly racist nature of the entry. Nothing new there. After all, this is the blogosphere.
So, why am I mentioning the racist propaganda of an ingrate? The entry reminded me that though there is intelligent, thoughtful information available about the idea of reparations to the descendants of slaves available, it does not get read often enough. Instead, the kind of nonsense in that entry is what most people know about the idea. The best article I've located online about reparations was published by Harper's Magazine in November of 2000. The periodical hosted a symposium on the topic, inviting legal experts Jack Hitt, Dennis C. Sweet III, Alexander Pires, Jr., and Willie E. Gary.
The article frames the issues well and explains how such a lawsuit would be planned and carried out. The discussion also dispenses with some of the misrepresentations made about reparations for slavery.
•Why should there be reparations? Because the damage from slavery is ongoing, despite its end in 1865.
•What would be the cause of action? Tort and breach of contract.
•Who would be the defendants? The government and private companies who benefitted from slavery.
•What time frame would be considered? From slavery to the present.
•What would the remedy be? Programs that focus directly on correcting conditions, such as poor health care and education for African-Americans, that are vestiges of slavery.
Quoting this article is really insufficent. I urge you to read it in its entirety. If you have been under the impression there are no reasonable arguments for reparations for slavery, you are in for a surprise.
Personally, I don't believe that any reasonable person truly aware of the history of race relations in America would question the justice of reparations to African-Americans. The barriers to reparations are political, not ethical.
What's the art?
A slave being whipped. Stewart White, the person who's blog entry generated this response, would have us believe such acts, the gist of slavery, were beneficial to African-Americans.
There is a second article about reparations that I also found very informative when I read it years ago. It appeared in The Atlantic Monthly on October 28, 1998. Atlantic Online is now available only to members. However, you may be able to access the article through Magazines Online or other data bases. They are free if used through your public library membership.posted by J. | 7:00 PM
Monday, August 23, 2004
Soul man/rock star: Rick James is not the only one
Yes, we expect, um, excesses, from rock stars. But, do those excesses -- in drug use, sexually profligacy and financial fumbling -- define rock starism? Cultural critic Mark Anthony Neal thinks so. He believes that such behaviors made the recently deceased Rick James a rock star.
I must disagree with Neal for two reasons. First, I believe that production of work that attracts the attention of a mass audience is the major criterion for any kind of stardom. A musician who plays the blues derived music that can be described as rock-and-roll, lays adolescents, is in trouble with I.R.S., and eats jelly doughnuts three times a day is not a rock star unless he has attracted that kind of attention. Rick James (pictured) was a a rock star because he produced rock and roll and attracted the attention of a mass audience -- mainly because of his music, but also because of his outrageous life style.
Neal provides his unacceptable definition of rock stardom while making another blunder. He believes that the soul man is a different type than the rock star.
Not so. Probe a soul man and, if he has the requisite popularity, you will find a rock star. Marvin Gaye did himself proud in exactly the vices Neal ascribes to rock stars -- sex, drugs and irresponsibility. So did Teddy Pendergrass, and the effects might have been the same as for Gaye if disability had not forced him to curb his appetites. R. Kelly, no longer indicted, but still morally reprehensible, has outpaced even Jerry Lee Lewis when it comes to sexually exploiting teenage girls. His pathetic excuse making would lead Elvis Presley to blush.
Neal has unwittingly fallen into the trap of assigning entertainers to categories based on race. He doesn't see the overlap between soul man and rock star because he thinks of the former as black and the latter as white. That shouldn't be the focus. The behaviors involved should be. And, when one examines the shameful behaviors of soul men and rock stars, it turns out that they are the same. The mistakes Neal made are related to what scholars in group studies do. They seek to examine the lives of the previously marginalized -- nonwhites, women and homosexuals. But, as occurs in Neal's essay, they sometimes fail to see the forest for the trees.posted by J. | 1:10 PM