Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Impact of One Decision

A writer writes!

Several years ago a friend of mine was terminated from employment from his administrative position.  At the time of the firing he was living a comfortable life.  With two kids, a wife, and a mortgage he was living out the promise of the fruits of the civil rights years of the 1960s.  He was a college graduate, inquisitive, and eager to give his best towards his job.  He was also part of the new breed of minority African American male professional workers in the Federal government.  He was using the opportunity to have a well paying administrative position to provide for the future of his family.

Unfortunately those he worked for did not value his inquisitive nature.  He was told to do as he was told and not to question the status quo.  He began to be perceived as a troublesome person who thought he knew it all.  His supervisor began to regret having given him the chance to work in her organization.  Disciplinary actions followed.  It was a method his supervisor chose with the advice of  Human Resources to show him who was in charge and that his behavior needed to change.  It became clear to  him that he was primarily expected to shut up and do as he was told.

He still spoke his mind wanting to be valued for being able to think and perform beyond being just competent.  He did not want to be "average".  He dressed well, and spoke well.  He was not what the work place was used to seeing in an African American male.  One day I was in a "Work Place Violence" class with his supervisor and one of my friend's co-workers.  His supervisor started asking questions about people's behavior and what that behavior might mean.  It was clear to me that the supervisor was thinking about my friend.  She was already judging him to be an angry Black man capable of violent acts at the work place. He was being painted as being the angry black man.

Several months later he was removed from his job. Fired for allegedly shaking his supervisor.  What followed was the inevitable.  Tension arose between his wife and him which lead to a divorce.  The house they had together became his wife's home which she later sold to move to another home.  His two boys no longer saw their father every day.  My friend searched for another job, but due to the stigma of "work place violence" on his record, the options were few.  He now survives via a minimum wage job, the luxuries of the past no longer available.

The whole situation was a tragedy.  He and his supervisor unfortunately were not able to work out differences.  An unfriendly Human Resources Office guided the supervisor into a life changing decision for my friend.  His life and the life of his family were disrupted and some would say ruined.  A bad decision on his part was not forgiven by his supervisor.  His supervisor took advantage of the opportunity to get rid of him, and that is what happened.  Since he was fired he has not had any instances of "work place violence" at other jobs he has worked at.  He has committed no criminal acts.

One decision.  One decision by my friend.  One decision by his supervisor and the Human Resources Department that advised the supervisor.  That was all that disrupted his life and the life of his family.  At your job or in your personal life, be aware that it only takes one decision to change the course of your life and those who depend on you.  Decide carefully.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Modern Minstrel Shows

A writer writes!

There are several shows on television that feature real people airing truly personal issues in their lives for the entertainment value of viewers.  I will not mention the names of the shows because I do not believe they are worthy of any additional publicity.  The topics of the shows feature such topics as the infidelity of  either a woman or man to their partner; who is the father of a woman's child; or some other dysfunctional relationship matter.

Typically a studio audience urges the show's participants into public social misbehavior to include cursing and fighting.  The participants in the shows also subject themselves to being asked embarrassing questions or as being the recipients of mean comments from the audience.  Unfortunately most participants in these shows seem to be African Americans.  I have no idea if they were paid to come on television to display their faults. One thing is obvious, they are embarrassing themselves and adding to stereotypes that others have of African Americans.

My view of these shows are that they are the new minstrel shows.  For free, or for whatever you pay for cable TV, you can watch confused and misguided Black people behave in a stereotypical manner.  I don't know who watches these shows, but what they see on television must fit their views of African Americans.

I would rather see television depict positive actions of African American people.  This will not happen, unless such shows are produced by African Americans.   Who wants to see stories of positive African Americans who contribute daily to making the world a better place?  A student doing great things in school, a young person running a successful and innovative business, an African American family doing charitable deeds for the benefit of others.  Those are interesting topics.  But instead television understands that society still has a market for minstrel shows.  Unfortunately the participants in these minstrel shows don't understand how they are being used to fuel negative opinions of African Americans.  For those who decide to go on these minstrel shows here is my suggestion.  Answer questions in a thoughtful unemotional manner.  Don't curse, fight, or be baited into any animal like behaviors.  Make the viewer see you as other than some carnival buffoon.  Then watch and see how long the show remains on television.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Amending the American Flag to Honor Native Americans

A writer writes.

The United States of America can truly be recognized as a Great Country if it would do the following.  Amend the American flag to recognize and honor the Native American culture that once flourished in the Americas.

Doing so would be a gesture that basically acknowledges the importance of the Native American culture and the original caretakers of the land.  The United States of America is a country developed into its current state through the hard efforts of immigrants.  Those immigrants celebrate their origins.  So, why can't we honor those who were the original inhabitants of the land?

Modify the flag with ideas suggested by Native Americans themselves.  It would be a gesture that provides a lasting memory of what was once a flourishing culture. Imagine gazing at a flag that automatically acknowledges the Native American culture.  Of course it is easier to not amend the flag.  But, the United States of American has never been known to do what is easy and convenient.

Let's start the dialogue and discussion.  Let's amend the flag of the United States of America.  Let's recognize and honor the Native American culture.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Wardrobe Attire African American Males Should Avoid

A writer writes!

The image of an African American male.  What do you think of when someone says describe an African American male?  The images that describe an African American male are often crystallized by what we see via local news stories, television shows, movies, videos and stories posted on the internet, the experiences of others, material written in books, and of course our own personal experiences.  Some of these images can become stereotypical if they only represent one aspect of the African American male.

For all the African American males out there, their fathers, mothers, and those who care about you here is my advice on how not to get negatively profiled.  Now, by being negatively profiled, I mean what to do to lessen your chances of being stopped and frisked by the police.  By being negatively profiled, I mean by avoiding women holding their purse closer to them or crossing the street when they see you coming.  By being negatively profiled, I mean the person who sees you automatically thinking of you as a threat to their safety rather than your being a human being.

Tip number one.  Don't dress similar to most characters portrayed in movies produced by main stream Hollywood.  Typically, those roles will be of criminals and Black males who have very little if any positive traits to admire.

Tip number two.  Don't dress similar to Black males shown on your local news stories.  Local news stories typically only show Black males who also have committed some type of crime.  The person typically is involved with a murder, theft, or some other act that paints them as being a bad person.

Tip number three.  Don't dress in gangster, rap, thug, or other non conformist clothes.  Especially do not wear your pants sagging off your behind.  You are automatically deemed to be unworthy of being hired for a job if you present yourself in such a wardrobe.  Don't even bother to go to a job interview if you are dressed in such a manner.

Here is the costume you need to wear.  A simple long sleeve white collared dress shirt, a conservative tie, a sports jacket or suit jacket and matching pants, dark colored dress shoes, dark socks, with your hair groomed and neat.  Very little jewelry is needed other than maybe a conservative watch.  There is no need to wear chains, ear rings, or display body tatoos.  I call this a costume, because that is what it is.  It presents an image that will be respected, admired, and complimented.  It is the anti slave look.  By wearing this costume you are dressing and presenting yourself for business, not to perform in a minstrel show.  You are taking control of how you are presented and not letting local news producers and Hollywood filmmakers display a negative image of you that fuels negative stereotypes of others.

Young people.  You especially need to not allow clothes makers to tell you that you look good in a hoodie or other wardrobe attire that paints you into the thug, gangster, or minstrel show category.  You are not being anti establishment by dressing in the latest fashion trends as identified by corporate America.  You are merely feeding the pockets of those who are taking advantage of your being gullible to think you are dressing differently and dressing "Black".

Take control of how you are presented.  Try the costume of a white shirt with a conservative tie, sports coat or suit jacket and watch how people react to you differently.  Stop feeding and supporting a media that only wants to present you in a negative manner.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Announcements that People Are Gay

A writer writes!

Yesterday, Michael Sam, a college student at the University of Missouri who also is an outstanding football player, announced that he is gay.  He had informed his teammates of this fact in August of 2013.  The significance of his announcement yesterday is that he will be available for the National Football League draft this spring.  No college football player previously has identified themselves as being gay prior to the draft.  No current NFL player has "come out" and identified themselves as being gay.

In the macho world of professional football, the fear is that a player who does announce that they are gay will suffer negative repercussions.  Those repercussions could be mistreatment by teammates and opponents alike.

It is sad that we as an advanced civilization (we claim) cannot accept the fact that we are all not the same.  History shows that people live the life they want to or feel they are compelled to live.  Some people may say that being gay is wrong, immoral, and just not right.  They may quote religious doctrine or other "facts".  Regardless of rules, we as individual people do what we believe is correct.  Many people prefer same sex relationships because they feel they are naturally inclined to be that way.  Maybe some make that decision as a personal choice?  Either way, my instincts tell me there is something wrong when a decision by a person to "announce" they are gay warrants national attention and is a major news story.

Are we now in a world where to get attention you have to be outside the norm?  There is nothing wrong with being heterosexual.  Heterosexual people also encounter various modes of improper treatment if they don't look like, or display "normal" characteristics of mainstream people.  An announcement that someone is gay should no longer get a standing ovation.  Instead, it should get a reaction of, "okay, that's your choice , we accept that. Now continue living."  In performing a job, it doesn't matter if you are gay or "straight".  People just want your best regardless of your sexual preferences.

The Olympic Medal Count - Why Keep Track?

A writer writes!

The Olympics in Sochi continue today.  For years I have wondered why is it so important to keep track of the number of medals a country wins during the competition?  Yes, every athlete in the competitions is attempting to win a medal as they display their athletic skills.  But, is the purpose of the Olympics to win as many medals as possible?  I don't think so.  If you ask each athlete what is their primary goal, few would say, "to help my country win the medal count."

Regardless, on newscasts across the United States inevitably a graphic is shown depicting what country is "winning" the medal count.  The Olympics are a competition featuring the world's best athletes in individual or team events.  For the human consumption and need for competition athletes wear costumes/uniforms depicting their allegiance to the country where they are a legal citizen. This does bring about some nationalistic pride in an athlete representing their country in an event.

But, does it really matter if the United States wins 30 gold medals and Russia 35?  Is the medal count a measurement stick on the success of a nation's Olympic athletic program?  I long for the day when medal count graphics are no longer shown.  Instead I long to see the focus on the effort expended by the athletes during the competition.  Celebrate the excellence of the art, not the number of medals that a "country" wins.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

No Smoking on the Planet Earth?

A writer writes!

Yesterday pharmacy giant, CVS, decided that they no longer would sell cigarettes in their stores.  We are soon approaching  a time when there will be no legal smoking of cigarettes allowed on the planet Earth.  But, that era of a smokeless society took somewhat of a hit in the United States when the state of Colorado legalized the recreational smoking of marijuana.   So, now it has become legal and acceptable in Colorado to smoke, well at least smoke marijuana.

Prior to that, I could envision a world where if you wanted to smoke you would have to charter a contractor based smoker spaceship to outer space. The cost of cigarettes was already approaching the point where people were being pushed into other non costly vices, or more dangerous vices.  That's one of the fall outs of no smoking.  People seem to need an unhealthy habit in their lives.

I recall the days of my parents smoking inside the small confines of the family car.  I would stick my nose out the window in an attempt to breathe non toxic air.  Over the years, more warnings came out that tied smoking to getting cancer.  That definitely spoiled that "cool looking" vice for many people.

So now I foresee the following.  Next year, CVS will announce, at least in Colorado, that they will sale medicinal marijuana in their CVS stores.