The Brutal Truth About Poverty (and Other Thoughts)

The Brutal Truth About Poverty

At a recent RNC meeting, former (and soon to be?) presidential candidate, Mitt Romney said:


Pardon my French but, in a word, bullshit. It’s not that conservative principles can’t “end the scourge of poverty”. It’s that nothing can. You see, it’s all about the human condition.

On paper, socialism is the only economic model that wipes out poverty (and extreme wealth as well). The problem is that socialism is antithetical to human nature. Socialism makes no room for selfishness.

Capitalism, on the other hand, is perfectly suited to human nature. Unfortunately, like the balance sheets that document its progress, capitalism is a zero sum game. There are winners and losers, assets and liabilities, whole swaths (of people) that must be written off.

Anyone who tells you his ideology will wipe out poverty is lying to you. If you don’t want to be poor, the only way out is to work your ass off. No system is going to save you. And since there will always be those unwilling or unable to work their ass off, there will always be poor people. Poverty is here to stay.

Was She REALLY Raped – Part 1

Between yesterday and today the GOP-run House watered down an anti-abortion bill which originally allowed for rape exceptions if the rape had been reported to the police. Republican women objected and demanded the police report requirement be excised.

Folks, this is one area where the PC talk needs to end. In what fantasy land are women incapable of lying about being raped? If I don’t pay my bills with the reason that my bank account was hacked and emptied, my billers are going to want proof. Did I file a claim? Did I report the loss to any authority? Why is the charge of rape (a deadly serious crime) the only one that can be levied carte blanche with no proof whatsoever? Forget proof – with NO ATTEMPT to seek justice?

In the world of insults to humanity, abortion ranks right up there with rape. If we are going to use a crime (rape) as a reason for the drastic step of terminating a pregnancy, then there ought to be some evidence that the woman treated the crime like a crime and reported it.

Was She REALLY Raped – Part 2, the Cosby Edition

I have little doubt that in the course of a long marriage, Bill Cosby was unfaithful, probably more than once. Many men think with the wrong head and this applies double to famous men.

But the MORE women who come forth with drug-cum-rape charges against Cosby the LESS I believe it. It starts to go into Ripley’s Believe it or Not territory. A half dozen women? Yeah I could have bought that. But more than two dozen?

Why would there be a rush for the rape bandwagon? I have a theory. Bill Cosby was one of the few brave black men to pull the covers off the “black community” and tell young black men and women to get their act together. Blacks hate nothing more than one of our own airing our dirty laundry and calling us to task in public.

And in a community dominated by single mothers, who will take the most offense at failures in child rearing? On Larry Wilmore’s new Comedy Central show, “The Nightly Show”, an editor of Ebony magazine, Jamilah Lemieux, could not help but mention Cosby’s lecturing. Besides his former co-star Phylicia Rashad, you don’t see many black women (or women in general) coming to his defense.

Cosby broke the “rule” that you NEVER suggest black folk have any accountability for their own situation. Now he’s paying for it big time.

What do you think? The bar is open.

When and When Not to Play the Race Card

We live in odd times when folks who see racism are called racists. Some people, mostly conservative, follow the logic of Stephen Colbert which goes something like this: “I don’t see race. The only reason I know I’m white is people tell me I am. The only reason I think you’re black is people tell me you are.” Hence anyone who brings up race as an issue must be the only one thinking about it and must be therefore the real racist. If we are honest we acknowledge that we don’t live in a post-racial society, whatever that is, and that the election of the first black President of the United States only made matters worse. Just like the chunk of cheese brings out the mice, the elevation of a black, albeit ethnically complex man to the top job brought out the racists in full force. Since the 1960’s the language that bigots use has for the most part changed because society simply will no longer tolerate n*gger this and n*gger that. The language is a bit more subtle and the racism in some ways more pervasive and harder to pin down and stamp out than it used to be. The fact is in 2012 there are times to play the so-called race card. However, not every dispute involving a person of color comes down to racism. To be credible, we need to learn when to play the race card.

When to Play the Race Card — GOP to Embrace Hispanics and Continue to Ignore Blacks

What have we heard repeatedly in the aftermath of the recent election? The GOP lost the election because they are blind to the changing demographics of America. Every once in a while a pundit will refer to “people of color”. More often the comment is that Hispanics who are “hard-working” need to be embraced by the Republican party. They are a growing demographic. Excuse me? So by implication, we’re back to the same old stereotype of blacks not being “hard-working”, the old saw of shiftless and lazy, to quote Sarah Palin, “shucking and jiving”. Who needs a “growing demographic” when there is a full-grown demographic already ripe for the picking? Where is the wake up call in the Republican party to actively pursue the black vote?

About the only worthwhile moment in Mitt Romney’s campaign was when he spoke in front of the NAACP. He didn’t play games. He didn’t pander. When he referred to “Obamacare” he got booed. So what? He actually treated the audience like adults who could agree or disagree with him. In fact he seemed more comfortable talking to this audience which he viewed as a lost cause for votes than he did talking to some of the folks whose votes he thought he could get.

Allen West and some other conservatives have talked about the new plantation where Democratic benefactors enslave their black voters with promises of handouts. How many times do they deliver that message to black audiences? I’d suggest close to never. It can’t be done you say. Tell that to Bill Cosby who years ago told black audiences that they needed to clean up the dysfunction in their communities. Some blacks were offended while others cheered. It was a dialogue that needed to happen. It needs to happen on a regular basis. Who better to push that conversation than conservatives whose claim to fame is self-sufficiency? Again, not telling the story to white audiences but to black ones.

Conservatives say liberal politics has failed the black community. Fine, then step in and tell a different story to this constituency and win them over. It’s easier just to ignore them, isn’t it? Leave them to rot because they can’t be reasoned with. That is tacit racism at its most destructive.

When Not to Play the Race Card — Obama’s Enemies Attack Susan Rice

UN Ambassador Susan Rice went on a series of Sunday morning gab-fests shortly after the September 11 murder of diplomat Chris Stevens and lied about the nature of his murder. Now before my liberal friends burst a blood vessel, there are innocent lies and there are malicious lies. I happen to believe that Susan Rice repeated talking points that had been sanitized as they traveled from the CIA through a bunch of bureaucrats and eventually into her hands. I do not believe her intention was to deceive. To the extent that a lie is something contrary to the truth, she lied. Unwittingly lied, but lied nonetheless. Enter, stage right, Senators Lindsay Graham and John McCain who call for Rice’s head on a platter. McCain says that if she is named as Hillary Clinton’s replacement for Secretary of State, he will block the appointment.

What are several pundits saying now? They say the “optics” of this are very bad. They say in the aftermath of an election where the GOP appeared tone-deaf to minorities they are now persecuting a black woman. I say screw the “optics”. This is the kind of charge that discredits legitimate claims of racism. The folks who are attacking Susan Rice don’t like Obama. It is as simple as that. They want to turn the tragedy of Benghazi into a scandal that irreparably damages the President. Already we’ve heard “what did he know and when did he know it” regarding security problems at the consulate. Susan Rice is nothing but a pawn in the game of Obama’s enemies. It is unfortunate that her outstanding career hangs in the balance but it has nothing to do with her being a woman or being black. She actually shares something with the white, penis owning Governor of New Jersey who has been attacked recently by conservatives: guilt by association with Obama. It is as simple as that.

Racism in America did not magically disappear when Obama got elected. Far too many blacks and whites don’t trust or like each other for reasons entirely juvenile and ignorant. We can only hope to bridge the chasm between the races by talking honestly about how to lift all of us together from our hardships. Accusations of racism where none exists only serve to keep the goal of racial harmony out of reach. Similarly, talking about blacks as if they were a monolith incapable of being persuaded, a group only worth judging from a distance, snuffs out any hope for positive change.

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The McWhorter Conversion

One of the outcomes of the recent Eric Holder/New York Post racial “events” was a robust dialog between me and readers of both my blog and another WordPress blog, ChenZhen’s Chamber. Either as a sensitive human being, or as  a black man (I’m not entirely sure which), I found myself defending Holder’s comments and joining in the outrage against the Post’s cartoon.

The online discussions in which I was engaged ran the gamut from over sensitivity of blacks, to the ultimate failure of the civil rights movement due to “coddling” blacks into a subservient position in our society. In these conversations I played the role that I usually play, the role expected of me by many if not most of my black brethren. I complained about lynchings. I complained about law abiding blacks not being able to flag down a cab in New York City. Despite my protests, a nagging introspection continued to gnaw at me.

I thought back on my visceral reaction to Bill Cosby and Barack Obama and Reverend Eugene Rivers calling on the black community to essentially get its act together. The man deep inside me who was taught as a boy that “if it is to be, it is up to me” applauded the call for responsibility coming from these black leaders. Yet I was conflicted, a conflict I wrote about in a previous post:

The first issue is whether or not blacks should castigate other blacks in front of whites. When I watched excerpts of Barack Obama’s “Father’s Day” speech, I must confess to some discomfort. …  I have struggled with my feelings about this. It smacks of airing dirty laundry outside the “family”.

For example, didn’t the following comments from Reverend Eugene Rivers completely let white folks “off the hook”?

It is not—it is no longer adequate, when you have got a Serena and Venus Williams conquering Wimbledon, right, to argue that racism is the primary thing that holds black people back, when you have had two secretaries of state who were black for the last eight years.

What Senator Obama‘s done is say, I‘m taking the black community to a new level of understanding and responsibility. No longer are we going to trade in the politics of grievance. He‘s saying, listen, black community, you better than this. And we can correct the problems that confront us, because we‘re good enough to do it. And I‘m challenging you to step up.

via ‘Hardball with Chris Matthews’ for Tuesday, July 15 – Hardball with Chris Matthews-

So this tug of war went on in my mind about how we should talk about race. Then this past Friday night I watched Bill Moyers interview social conservative (and black man) John McWhorter. McWhorter had recently written a piece in The New Republic about racial dialog. An excerpt follows:

So what does our new Attorney General Eric Holder mean when he says that we are “a nation of cowards” for avoiding “frank conversations” about race?

The meanings we intend often correspond only fitfully to dictionary definitions. If someone asks “Do you have the time?” technically it would be answering the question to just say “Yes” and walk on. But there is a convention that “Do you have the time?” is taken as a request for the time to be shared.

Calls like Holder’s that we need to have “conversations” about race are coded in the same way …  Nominally, a conversation is simply an exchange of impressions. What people taking Holder’s line mean is something more specific.

One might ask them: To what extent will this conversation entail whites saying that they are tired of being called racists and being policed for ever more abstract shades of racist bias, with blacks acknowledging this and resolving to do it as little as possible?

Many would answer “not at all,” others “very little.” Virtually no respondents would see the “conversation” as incomplete without the above.

Now, we might ask the same people: To what extent will this “conversation” entail blacks teaching whites about institutional racism, ensuring them that black people still experience racism, and that our having a black president doesn’t mean that white people are “off the hook?”

I suspect most would answer “to a massive extent,” and that the vast majority of respondents would see the “conversation” as incomplete without a substantial degree of the above. This would embody the lion’s share of the “frankness” in this conversation, presumably.

After all, if Holder were really interested in a “conversation” on race, he would understand that America is engaged in one year-round. The claim that America “doesn’t want to talk about race” is hardly uncommon, and has a dramatic tang. However, take the past few years: Don Imus, Michael Richards, Jena, and of course, the coverage of Barack Obama’s campaign, which included white reporters diligently smoking out whites who insisted they wouldn’t vote for a black President.

A Martian observer–or a modern Tocqueville–would readily see that America was rather obsessed with race. Certainly we are an America ardently “conversing” about it year-round. What Holder wants is not a conversation but a conversion. …

I suspect those who call for this “conversation” know the claim has become more gestural than concrete. Otherwise, they would state their case directly rather than asking to “talk.” Really, who is imagining a goal, an endpoint after this “conversation”? What, or who, would determine that we had finally “talked” enough?

If white people are cowards for not wanting to be called racists, there is a fear as well in people like Holder. It’s not pretty to face that black people will excel, like everyone else, under less-than-perfect conditions. This “conversation” would be social history playing out quite perfectly–but history is never that consummately fair. The Civil Rights revolution was close enough to perfect, and Barack Obama’s election was even closer. Now, it’s time not for a callisthenic “conversation,” but for making our way in reality.

via Defining ‘Nation of Cowards’ Down.

McWhorter asks when have we talked enough? And is the conversation a true one when only the black man’s grievance can be the center of the conversation? McWhorter suggests that the time for talk is probably over … that there are actions that need to take place that are more urgent than talk:

BILL MOYERS: I brought a quote from the psychologist, Phillip Goff, “Psychological science has long known that words and pictures far from harmless can be the very instruments of dehumanization necessary for collective violence regardless of how innocently they are intended.” Do you agree with that?

JOHN MCWHORTER: Were we ever thinking that there was going to be an America where there was nothing that we could call racism? Because we are homo sapiens and we’re wired in certain ways. The idea that we could never have any biases, that we would never process people according to group, that there would never be some people who were more troglodytic on this thing than others, I don’t think that that corresponds to any kind of reality. We have made amazing strides. But the idea that we could ever have none? I don’t know. We’d have to be a different species. We’d have to evolve beyond. And as far as what he said about collective action, it’s just a matter once again of degree and likelihood. I think we know recently because of that horrible thing that happened in Buffalo, when you get on a plane, there’s a chance that, you know, something hideous might happen. But we don’t consider it significant enough to not fly planes. There is a chance, I suppose, that a cartoon of a chimpanzee being shot might strike a critical mass of white people to go burn down an all-black town. There’s a chance of that. I think it’s so small that really we need to be thinking about things like how much money and being poured into our public schools and how that might help more black children learn how to read. I’m more interested in that.

via Bill Moyers Journal . Transcripts | PBS.

McWhorter makes the case that all the talk about race obscures the real problems and does not help to solve them. His answer to Attorney General Holder:

BILL MOYERS: So how would you begin a conversation of a frank conversation about race with Eric Holder?

JOHN MCWHORTER: If he was sitting in front of me right now I would say, Mr. Holder, Eric, whatever it would be, are you afraid of the prospect of black America having to move on without calling on whites to acknowledge their racism? Are you afraid of the fact that despite the nastiness of our history, despite the injustice of slave ships, the Jim Crow, and everything else, that we’re at a point where even though we’re still in a position behind telling white people that they’re racist is no longer going to do the job. It’s not that I find it unfashionable or distasteful. You’re not going to help anyone doing that. Are you afraid of us really having to take responsibility for ourselves? And what’s important is I would say, Mr. Holder, you know that our taking responsibility for ourselves will involve calling on the government to do things to allow us to do that. So this is not some bootstraps argument. But still are you afraid of no longer talking about racism? Why is it that when you made a speech you wanted to take that line after Barack Obama’s been elected president? Isn’t it time to knock this off? That is what I would say to him. And, and I want to specify. It’s time to knock this off because it is not helping anyone anymore.

I have maintained in the various blog discussions that race is absurd. No one is black. No one is white. Yet we devote an inordinate amount of time talking about it. What would happen if we just stopped? What would happen if every time a young black boy or girl asked his or her parent “Mommy, what is racism?” the answer was “never mind … finish your homework”.  What if the black community truly adopted the adage “success is the best revenge”? During one of my conversations, my “opponent” threw the following video in my face:

How do we deal with racism? Actor Morgan Freeman says, “stop talking about it”.

So, here I am at great risk of being called a sell out by civil rights advocates. I’m letting the white man off the hook. Well folks, I’m sorry. I don’t want to give comfort to bigots, believe me. But I am beginning to increasingly suspect that the antidote to racism is black success home grown in the black community by dint of personal responsibility and absolutely no excuse making. McWhorter argues that blacks really don’t want a conversation about race. They want a conversion of all whites to folks who understand the “black condition” and are forever apologetic about their role in it. When all the hand wringing is over, blacks are no better off than before.

I think at the ripe old age of 47 I am undergoing a conversion of my own. I call it the McWhorter conversion. It’s time to stop the race talk and start playing a winning game. It’s not like we don’t have role models. Just look at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

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