Sunday, April 27, 2008

Acting White: The Wrong of Rev. Wright

Rev. Jeremiah Wright has the right to defend his name if he feels he has been unfairly maligned, regardless of how it might help or hurt Barack Obama, but the church should provide no sanctuary for shameless self-promotion. For their part, the Clintons do not care who or what they have to take in or out of context in order to gain the political advantage. Obama has crashed Hillary’s ‘my-turn-to-be-president-party’, so it is scorched earth time. Barack just needs to saddle up his flame-retardant underwear and keep movin’.

I watched Rev. Wright defend himself this past weekend and found myself wishing I could stay ignorant about what he really thinks. Without knowing it, he set black people back fifty years with his ‘different not deficient’ diatribe. I have a child with ADD, and I hear this different thinking/learning crap all the time. But what I know is this bright kid thinks no differently than his white classmates, he is just easily distracted. Thankfully, his medicine controls the distraction problem. End of story.

Black kids are not right brain, to whites kid’s left brain – what hogwash. Did he really say white brains are logical and analytical, and blacks brains are creative? Come on Reverend! All kid’s brains, no matter what race, work exactly the same way, even as some face learning difficulties. The difficulties, like ADD or dyslexia, do not change the workings of the brain, but rather toss in roadblocks that need to be addressed. Black kids as a group suffer from cultural distraction that devalues education and the hard work it requires. This is what is different!!! Please!

People need to see the Clinton political machine for what it is. Rev. Wright is not so much the divisive ex-pastor of Obama, as they have portrayed, but rather an opportunist. In fact, the Clintons invited Wright to the White House for some high-powered prayer support, just after the Lewinsky rough patch. In the end, to say that the brains of whites and blacks work differently, or that the US government created HIV to kill blacks, shows Wright as an ignorant sheep herder, not the thoughtful shepherd.

Lord help us.

James C. Collier


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Friday, April 25, 2008

Acting White: Sean Bell Verdict

When I first heard the police in Bell’s case were pronounced innocent I thought, damn! Another Diallo! A black man in NYC needs to wear one of those bright orange 'don't shoot me' hunting jackets just to go get a cup of freaking coffee! Now I’m no lawyer, but those book types in Boston taught me a thing or two about the law, for all the money they took off me.

I told myself, calm down, and see what the hell happened. Is Sean Bell another Amadou Diallo? Now you probably know the details: one Jamaica Queens bar; three drunk suspects; one patron altercation; three undercover cops; one ‘yo, get my gun’; 50 conflicting witnesses; assorted car crashing; 50 police bullets; no actual suspect gun; one dead groom – and one resulting shit storm.

Two things caught my attention. First, the police defendants chose a judge rather than a jury to decide their fate. Judges, on balance, render more unbiased decisions than do juries, partly because appeals judges are more quick to overturn those same judges, if their administration or read of the law is off-base. So if you are innocent, going for the judge is smart. If you are guilty, better to take your chances with the pliable, but sacrosanct, jury system.

The second thing, all those bullets against unarmed men would seem to point to guilt, but does it really? The decision to shoot the first bullet is what matters, and this seems to have occurred after the intoxicated Mr. Bell used his car in a lethal manner against the unmarked police van. All remaining bullets are just poor marksmanship.

So from where I sit, five thousand miles away, I feel badly for Mr. Bell and his family, but unlike the truly innocent Mr. Diallo, Bell and his cohorts seem to have been the main precipitators of his demise. The prosecutor should appeal these verdicts, to prove them out, and then we should learn what we already know about even the mere talk of getting guns - it leads to people getting shot.

Lastly, the Diallo case was involuntary manslaughter at the least, come on America!

James C. Collier

4/29/2007 P.S. My earlier post failed to present that while incompetence, as demopnstrated by the NYC police, may not rise to the point of being criminal, it is serious nonetheless and rightfully punishable. These officers face federal, civil, and departmental judgement and are not (nor should they be) off the hook for their actions.


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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Acting White: "I Did Not Have Sex With That Race Card!"

(on the day of the PA Democratic primary)

Mr. Memoli: “Sir, what did you mean yesterday when you said that the Obama campaign was playing the race card on you?”
Mr. Clinton: “When did I say that, and to whom did I say that?”
Mr. Memoli: “On WHYY radio yesterday.”
Mr. Clinton: “No, no, no. That’s not what I said. You always follow me around and play these little games, and I’m not going to play your games today. This is a day about election day. Go back and see what the question was, and what my answer was. You have mischaracterized it to get another cheap story to divert the American people from the real urgent issues before us, and I choose not to play your game today. Have a nice day.”
Mr. Memoli: “Respectfully sir, though, you did say …”
Mr. Clinton: “Have a nice day. I said what I said, you can go and look at the interview. And if you’ll be real honest, you’ll also report what the question was and what the answer was.”

Ms. Phillips: Do you think that was a mistake and would you do that again?”
Mr. Clinton: “No, I think that they played the race card on me. We now know, from memos from the campaign and everything that they planned to do it along.”

James C. Collier


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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Acting White: Rope-A-Dope

I watched the Hillary vs. Barack debate, in Philly, last night and two things came to mind as they squared off. The first was how we voters get sucked into thinking that the goal is to figure out the candidates and what they will likely do in office. WRONG! The second was how the debate reprised the Ali/Foreman ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ prizefight, whereby Hillary, with the help of the moderators, pounded Barack as he leaned back on the ropes. Only the election will tell if Barack’s ‘rope-a-dope’ tactic resulted in Hillary punching herself into submission, or if Barack is now permanently injured and should retire.

Each candidate is constantly tweaking their words to grab a few more share points of whatever voting block their pollsters are lusting for. The trick is to turn the right phrase or word, while avoiding the wrong phrase or word, - bitter is OK but cling is not - and never, ever, say anything where its specific meaning or context is clear. If you are lucky, your opponent will find no serial killers or registered sex offenders amongst your classmates from the first grade, else you be ‘hoisted without hesitation’.

I cannot argue with Barack’s rope-a-dope approach. Any winning swipe he takes at the Dragon Lady is surely going to end up in the headlines as, “Angry Black man slaps the hell out of poor little pugnacious White women – ending his bid for high office”. The best he can hope for is that the audience is so secretly embarrassed by this contrived ‘contest’ that they vow to regain their dignity at any cost. He cannot beat her, he has to let her lose on her own.

And one last parting shot, regardless of whether one wears a 24/7 flag pin or holds hands with the Mrs. in public, it don’t mean a thing. It’s all about what people think you are doing when no one is watching – and 'Billary' knows this like Oscar Mayer knows hotdogs.

James C. Collier


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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Chinks? You Gotta be Kidding Philly!

I saw this story in the WaPo today, I followed a link to a young Asian person's telephone inquiry. Judge for yourself.

Chink's Steaks


I just called Chink's Steaks, in Philadelphia.
Here is the conversation that I had with Cathy,
a Chink's Steaks employee.

me: Hello, I was wondering where your
restaurant got the name Chink's Steaks?
Cathy: The owner had chink eyes.
me: What?!
Cathy: Yeah, I think that's right- he had
slanty eyes.
Cathy (to another employee): Is that right?
Didn't he have slanty Chinese eyes?
me: Is the owner Chinese?
Cathy: No he's Jewish.
me: Are you aware of the connotation of the
word chink?
Cathy: No.
me: Are you aware that chink is the equivalant
to the racial slur nigger?
Cathy: No
me: Do you think the owner is aware?
Cathy: No
me: Is he the owner now?
Cathy: No, he's dead.
me: Who is the owner now?
Cathy: Joe
me: Okay, umm, thanks. Bye.

Chink's Steaks is located on 6030 Torresdale
Avenue in Philadelphia. You can call them at
215-535-9405. I am truly disgusted.


James C. Collier


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Monday, April 14, 2008

Do blacks and Asians have to behave like white people to succeed?

This was the BBC question of the day, on World Have Your Say, a daily program that invited me, hastily, to toss in my two-cents worth. The show focuses on Africa, but this blog caught their attention so they asked me to kick off the show by defining ‘acting white’.

After getting them going, I could tell that this would be more of an opportunity to learn about Africa then for them to learn anything from me. The nuance of the accusation is much more basic to Africans and resident Asians pertaining to dress, speech, and daily behaviors. I mentioned education, and its association, to practically no reaction from the listening audience.

Upon reflection, the main difference in Africa and the US seems not to be that they can errantly accuse each other of this alleged betrayal, but rather that it does not extend to the realm of the pursuit of education. Education is so difficult to come by in Africa, one might suppose, that it has yet to achieve a status where this manner of rejection could appear thinkable, in any form. It appears to be sacrosanct, and not viewed the same as music, or videos, clothes, or cuisine.

The other thing I learned is that Africans suffer, like Americans, from two levels of ignorance when it comes to racism. The first level is straight-forward common sense and shows in responses like ‘all white people are evil’, or ‘all blacks are inferior’. These views pop-up and easily dismissed. The deeper level is an ignorance of science and pre-colonial human history that is challenged only by higher education, again, something in very short supply.

America’s Blacks, with their access to higher-ed., could be helpful in leading the Africans out of their deficit of understanding, by example. But to lead you must know where you want to go, with a willingness to invest to get there.

James C. Collier


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Friday, April 11, 2008

Acting White: Angry Politician, Side Bar #5

Letter to Andres Martinez's "Stumped" Column in the Washington Post...

"Dear Stumped,

Bill and Hillary seem to think that it is unconscionable not to count the votes in Florida and Michigan, while at the same time advocating the right of pledged delegates to vote for someone other than the candidate they have agreed to support on behalf of the voters. Is there a disconnect in their thinking? If pledged delegates are not going to support the candidate they have pledged to support, then it seems to me that they have disenfranchised the voters they have pledged to represent.

Am I confused here?

TR in Cleveland

Dear TR,

Yes, you are confused. But if it makes you feel better, we all are.

And yes, you have touched upon some deliciously Kafkaesque (or is it Clintonesque?) logic. As you point out, Hillary Clinton is arguing that the pledged delegates chosen in two illegitimate contests be seated at the convention, lest the voters of Michigan and Florida be disenfranchised. Meanwhile, her campaign is suggesting that the pledged delegates chosen in all other 48 states need not stick to the candidate voters assumed they were choosing.

I think we'd all be less confused if Clinton just came out and said it: Pledged delegates are really, really pledged in all states she won (including the illegitimate contests) but delegates from states she lost are free agents. That's essentially the argument."

James C. Collier


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Monday, April 07, 2008

Acting White: When Racism Meets Common Sense

I found this site at the University of Chicago, and thought it raised some interesting issues, not the least of which is how guilt-driven thinking can obscure the obvious. The researchers are attempting to ascertain racial bias by measuring reaction times to armed and unarmed white and black men. Those being tested are asked to either shoot in defense or holster their weapon, whichever is warranted.

The study makes certain assumptions that I question out of the gate. The first is that we should naturally respond to depictions of armed black men and white men exactly the same, or something is wrong. Now if black men and white men committed lethal violence at the same rate, I would expect this. Of course we know that black men commit lethal crimes at 5-6 times the rate of white men, so I would expect reaction times to armed black men to be lower – which they are.

The second, and greater, assumption is about stereotypes themselves, and that they are automatically misleading and should be avoided. In reality, the stereotype at play here, black men as more dangerous, is accurate and the heightened sensitivity this brings is only natural, and would, on average, aid those who might otherwise add themselves to the wrong end of the homicide statistics.

It is guilt-driven thinking that automatically labels all stereotypes as bad, even though such labeling has never stopped anyone, white or black, from continuing to employ them as, sometimes life-saving, shortcuts in support of an increasingly complex world. To survive, every stereotype must contain a ‘kernel of truth’. Without empirical backing they wither onto the scrapheap of selfish bigotry.

As for my test, my split between armed men, black and white, showed that I hesitated more, as did most, on counter-stereotyped targets. In other words, I shot armed black males 15 milliseconds faster than armed white males. My reaction time to unarmed subjects was 2 milliseconds longer for blacks.

I can forgive the crudeness of the on-line test, the actual research efforts (paper) looks to be significantly more robust. The NYT took its own cut as well. However, avoiding the taboos in the assumptions is a fatal flaw.

James C. Collier


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Saturday, April 05, 2008

Acting White: Tiger Woods

Excerpt from: "Who's Afraid of a Large Black Man?", by Charles Barkley

"You cannot talk about Tiger Woods and race without dealing with his win at Augusta National in 1997, a historic win not just because Tiger was the first person of color to win there—a place that even now, because of its stance on women not being members, symbolizes exclusion and golf’s lingering intolerance—but because he won by a record margin. Many black people in America didn’t even know what the Masters Tournament was before that weekend. They certainly had never watched. I don’t know if any studies have been done, but my bet is that there were millions of Asians and Hispanics around the world who had never watched golf before, but watched the Masters on that Sunday afternoon when Tiger won. There’s a memory from that day that has nothing to do with golf that Tiger shared during our conversation that afternoon. His tone turned very serious as he recalled it. After the traditional ceremony at Butler Cabin to present him with the customary green jacket, Tiger had something else waiting for him, something that was very rewarding in a different sense.

“So, there’s this closing ceremony,” Tiger explained. “You go on the putting green, where it takes place, and I look up and they’re all there in their white outfits. The cooks, the staff, attendants, everybody. They’re all black. Each one of them came out onto the balcony and watched it. I look back and I start getting choked up just thinking about it. They touched me in a really powerful way. I started thinking about everything these people had faced in life, all the ugliness and all the prejudice and all the obstacles they had to deal with. I’ve seen what they struggle with and I feel so bad. I was thinking that they could have a lot of bitterness and feel ‘Why him? Why not me?’ But they didn’t. They don’t. It was very impactful, man. It was so huge to me, for them to feel that way about me and for them to honor me in that way.

“I’ve gotten to know most of those people now, learning about all the years they worked there. And it’s really that I want to say thank you to them because they influenced my life. They touched me more than they will ever know. Ever. As I walked out that day, I said, ‘Dad, look up there in the clubhouse. Just look over there.’ And my dad started getting choked up. ‘Son,’ he said, ‘take this in.’ And I said, ‘Dad, that’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve been looking over there the entire time.’”"

James C. Collier


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Acting White: Acting Absolutely Idiotisk

In the what must they be thinking category. The Swedish vodka maker Absolut must figure on adding more Mexican customers in place of all the Americans they will lose over this ad. The US, a colonial result of England and France, fights Mexico, a colony of Spain, and wins. Mexico signs away the spoils, including California. It was not about the Mayans, the Incas, or Navajo, just Euro-dominance in the new world. That’s the way it was, end of story. I thought the Vasa was the dumbest thing I ever heard a Swede do.

James C. Collier

HT: Mangan's Miscellany


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Friday, April 04, 2008

Acting White: Angry Child, Side Bar #4

Under the heading of reading is believing - the school district in Cheektowaga NY is experimenting with actually requiring that students behave to standards that could prepare them to live as law abiding, productive, citizens. Of course, it a takes a Harvard, MA education expert to say how a program of ‘positive behavioral interventions and supports’ is bad. Yes, having kids walk, not run, on one side of the hallway, to their classes is so draconian. How unfair it is that kids are required to actively pursue their studies, in order to qualify for extra-curricular activities, like sports and dances. What’s next, saying yes sir and yes ma’am? They better be careful up there in Cheektowaga – they just might start graduating young adults who can read and write, and who have respect for themselves and others.

James C. Collier


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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Acting White: Big Guns Going After Malaria

Media mogul Ted Turner, and his money, are joining forces with the Methodists and Lutherans to help the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to eradicate malaria. So why is this so significant, other than the tragic fact that 1 million Africans, mostly children, die each year from the disease? Let’s take a quick peek behind the ‘curtains’.

Throughout human history, no single naturally occurring malady or man-made phenomena is more responsible for death than is malaria. The disease, although curable in modern times, continues to proliferate in tropical zones, and particularly in Africa. It is believed to be approximately 50,000 years old, perhaps as old as modern humanity itself. Inasmuch as the planet has experienced nearly 100 billion human births by some educated estimates, coupled with the knowledge that malaria is responsible for 10 million world-wide deaths in the last century, we can easily assigned at least one billion deaths to the disease. This makes it the daddy-long-legs of killers.

Nothing can kill so many without leaving its big fat thumb-print all over evolution, particularly pertaining to who ended up on top versus the bottom. In early human history, Africans that escaped/migrated from the continent not only slipped the clutches of deadly malaria, but exposed themselves to the bounty of better climates, animals, food, etc. In a cruel twist, the hemoglobin cells of many of those who remained mutated to a sickle shape, increasing their survival if they stayed put, but creating another deadly potential should they later choose, or be forced, to leave.

We can stop the science lesson here, but the take-away in all of this is that humanity, including who we are today, was and still is greatly influenced by the filtering and distributive nature of evolution. Forces such as malaria and such, which occurred in certain geographies, exert tremendous pressure on the results and disparities we continue to grapple with, to this day, and they deserve our attention. Go Ted.

James C. Collier


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