Monday, July 31, 2006

How the Brain Helps Partisans Admit No Gray

How the Brain Helps Partisans Admit No Gray - Washington Post

It is slightly interesting that psychologists have ‘recently’ learned that “people are not evenhanded when they process information, even though they believe they are”. The Greek spirits of Socrates and Plato, the patrons of critical thinking, must be having a big laugh now that their contribution of 2,500 years ago has been re-discovered, again.

Nevertheless, the discussion certainly begs acknowledgment of the correlation of human tendencies and resulting societal collisions, particularly when it come to issues of race. The distinction between malicious and ignorant racism falls out of this understanding of human foibles and serves us, if we allow it.

When I listen to a group of Blacks discussing issues of White behaviors, I am not so surprised by the amount of bias I hear, but rather how exceptional I feel that I seem to be in the minority that my brain discerns it. More often than not, I keep silent and thank the stars that I 'took a liking' to philosophy in college. I imagine my White counterparts, in critical thinking, experiencing something similar, as they listen to their ‘folk’ discuss behaviors.

Unlike the ignorant variety of bias, as described above, malicious racism is less a common thing to hear and see, but it does happen, and in all directions. Interestingly, the facilitator of malicious racism is largely the camouflage provided by typical, non-critical thinking. By inference, if we attack weak thinking in general, beginning with early education, we better expose and challenge the lurking efforts of those with malicious agendas. Herein resides the case for adding critical thinking courseware in K-12 curriculums.

Stepping back, what might be interesting to the Greek Skeptics is researcher ability to pinpoint just what portion of the brain is doing what, as our thinking goes wrong. But then again, the Greeks might reasonably conclude that the physiology of errant thinking is superfluous evidence to what we already know and experience as societal illness.

James C. Collier


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Sunday, July 30, 2006

Is Racism Behind Treatment of Haitians?

Is Racism Behind Treatment of Haitians? - AP

Are Haitians treated differently simply because they are black? It may seem so, but the answer upon review is no, and there is nothing simple, as the question suggest, about what has lead up to the way that would-be Haitian immigrants are treated by this country. To present the question this way begs a polarized conversation, with America’s treatment of its own Blacks as an emotional context, in place of one that recognizes the history and challenges of each country and the challenges of immigration.

The US can never deny its racist past and the fact of its continuing momentum that, while changing for the better, is yet complete. It is also undeniable that Haiti exists as the most challenged country of modern western history, separate from America, and by virtue of a history dating back to slavery, French rule, and a set of arduous development challenges.

“Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere and among the poorest countries in the world. Two thirds of Haiti's eight million citizens live in poverty. Half of its adult population is illiterate. Only a quarter of its children attend school.” United States Institute of Peace (2006)

All causative arguments aside, the failure of US Blacks, 40 million in number, to fully assimilate the education and skills required by the US economy, cost this country’s economy, including Blacks, nearly $440 billion per year in loss gross domestic product (GDP) needed to help propel us. If we consider that the average Haitian, from a population 20% the size of America’s Black population, is significantly less prepared to transistion and contribute to our society and economy, the idea of immigration conjures devastating impact on the US.

The US would certainly do better to tackle the pressing problems with the existing Black underclass, regarding education, crime, and yes, racism and victim mentalities too. This needs to happen before assuming the challenges, through immigration policy, of the destitute Haiti.

Putting the complex question in simple terms of black and white is not helpful or fair to anyone, and 'stirs the wrong pot'.

James C. Collier


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Thursday, July 27, 2006

Report Cites BIA in Death of Teenager

Report Cites BIA in Death of Teenager - Washington Post

“While a few dozen tribes lucky enough to own reservation land near major population centers make headlines with gambling casinos generating mind-boggling wealth, the vast majority of America's Indians remain mired in poverty, victimized by ill-conceived federal policies and a gathering backlash spurred by the myth that Native Americans everywhere are cashing in.”
The Boston Globe(2002)

The death of a sixteen-year old Native American girl in 2003, along with the headline above succinctly sums up the plight of America’s indigenous people. The judge, in the case of the girl, recently found the failures of the authorities of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) a significant factor in her death from alcohol poisoning.

But other than reviewing what most of us already know, that Native Americans continue their top spot as America’s ‘most abused’, what else is to be gleaned from this tragedy that draws so little attention from the greater public?

Whether or not we agree that Native Americans ‘owned’ the land of the Americas, before others arrived, is an argument of limited real consequence. What is clear, however, is that segregating them, first by force, and later by remedy, has been much more the devastating blow to their plight. The assimilation that needed to occur so that they could have a chance to survive side-by-side with the rest of the country makes them the ‘truly forgotten people’.

Inasmuch as any group attempts to live apart and/or at odds physically and socially with the leading edge of technology and advancing methods, they inevitably become victims of the disparity itself, regardless of who is wielding it. Blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans cannot continue to underutilized and underperform the education and skills development requirements of this country without the disastrous impacts on their groups that we see. No policy or program, however devised, will ever negate this truth.

The plight of this young Native American girl, along with that of her people, tell this story most eloquently, if we let it.

James C. Collier


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Friday, July 21, 2006

The Injustice Bill Cosby Won't See*

Cosby: Blacks Should Fix Own Communities - AP

The Injustice Bill Cosby Won't See - Washington Post

Talking Points
Bill Cosby vs. Michael Eric Dyson vs. James C. Collier

Michael Eric Dyson takes Bill Cosby on head-to-head with each issue that he brings up in his now infamous NAACP speech from May 17, 2004. Here are some highlights:

Cosby: "Just forget telling your child to join the Peace Corps. It's right around the corner. (laughter) It's standing on the corner. It can't speak English. It doesn't want to learn English. I can't even talk the way these people talk."
Dyson: "Cosby's poisonous view of young folks who speak a language he can barely parse [Ebonics] simmers with hostility and resentment." And "Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, Cosby's lauded '70s television cartoon series, won greater acceptance for a new cast of black identities and vernacular language styles. Cosby has made money and gained further influence from using forms of black English he now violently detests."
Collier: “I think Mr. Cosby’s point is that today’s Black kids are not bi-lingual, in the sense that Black English is unique and ubiquitous, nor are they, to a greater extent, bi-cultural, to the requirements of society. The ability to move ‘seamlessly’ between the ‘standard English’ requirements of school and work and the informal language of the street is a prerequisite both for advancement and maintaining uniqueness.”

Cosby: "People with their hat on backwards, pants down around the crack. Isn't that a sign of something, or are you waiting for Jesus to pull his pants up (laughter and clapping)."
Dyson: "Baggy clothes express identity among black youth, and not just beginning with hip-hop culture. Moreover, young black entrepreneurs like Sean 'P. Diddy' Colms and Russell Simmons have made millions from their clothing lines."
Collier: “Emulating styles is one thing; emulating prison-inspired dress is another. When style of dress implies a mindset and behavior that includes the rejection of education, and other advancing assimilations, including lawful behavior, those styles should be recognized as not mere expressions of identity, but rather as counter-productive behavior. The fact the Mister’s Combs and Simmons have made millions commercializing prison-inspired styles does not make it acceptable.

Cosby: "Those people are not Africans, they don't know a damned thing about Africa. With names like Shaniqua, Shaligua, Mohammed and all that crap and all of them are in jail."
Dyson: "Names like Shaniqua and Taliqua are meaningful cultural expressions of self-determination.I think that it does have something to do with African roots of black identity, and perhaps with Cosby's ignorance and discomfort with those roots.Cosby's ornery, ill-informed diatribe against black-naming is a snapshot of his assault on poor black identity." And "Given the vicious way blacks have been targeted for incarceration, Cosby's comments about poor blacks who end up in jail are dangerously naïve and empirically wrong."
Collier: “Black knowledge of Africa and Black naming conventions have little to do with each other, or the disproportional incarceration rate of young Black men. The frustration of the elder Cosby, with Black lawlessness, is reflected as impatience with superfluous naming behaviors. While his editorial argument is fallacious, his frustration with high and rising rates of Black incarceration is more than legitimate.

Cosby: "The city and all these people have to pick up the tab on them [poor African Americans] because they don't want to accept that they have to study to get an education."
Dyson: "If the rigidly segregated education system continues to fail poor blacks by failing to prepare their children for the world of work, then admonitions to 'stay in school' may ring hollow.In suburban neighborhoods, there are $60-million schools with state-of-the-art technology, while inner city schools desperately fight for funding for their students."
Collier: “Mr. Cosby is correct that there is a tab for the under performance of Blacks - $440 billion dollars per year in loss GDP to be exact. While Blacks pay the greatest price, all of America pays as well. Inequities in school funding certainly exist, but it is the consistent failure of Blacks to mitigate whatever gaps exist in resources, however small or large, with self-determination and commitment to their better futures, via assimilation, that in turn places them on the bottom.

Cosby: "I'm talking about these people who cry when their son is standing there in an orange suit. Where were you when he was two? (clapping) Where were you when he was twelve? (clapping) Where were you when he was eighteen, and how come you don't know he had a pistol? (clapping)"
Dyson: "And then there are the problems of the working poor: folk who rise up early every day and often work more than forty hours a week, and yet barely, if ever, make it above the poverty level. We must acknowledge the plight of both poor black (single) mothers and poor black fathers, and the lack of social support they confront. Hence, it is incredibly difficult to spend as much time with children as poor black parents might like, especially since they will be demonized if they fail to provide for their children's basic needs."
Collier: “Growing up poor is difficult, no matter who a person is or where they live – but it can never be a codified excuse for failure in the midst of opportunity, however imperfect that opportunity. Rising above the status handed to us at birth is a personal endeavor that we must ultimately take as an individual responsibility, not because others are not contributors, but rather because the question ‘am I my brother’s keeper?’ speaks to an ideal, not the reality.

Cosby: "All this child knows is 'gimme, gimme, gimme.' These people want to buy the friendship of a child.and the child couldn't care less.and these people are not parenting. They're buying things for the kid. $500 sneakers, for what? And they won't spend $250 on Hooked on Phonics. (clapping)"
Dyson: "And yet, some of the engaged critique he [Cosby] seeks to make of black folk—of their materialism, their consumptive desires, their personal choices their moral aspirations, their social conscience—is broadcast with much more imagination and insight in certain quarters of hip-hop culture. (Think of Kanye West's track, "All Falls Down," which displays a self-critical approach to the link between consumption and the effort to ward off racial degradation.)"
Collier: “Black consumption reflects both a willingness to trade short-term comfort and enjoyment for long-term gains, as well as a vulnerability, similar to that of the rest of America, to the ‘take no prisoners’ marketing of material goods. Hip/hop and Rap music, contrary to Mr. Dyson, largely glorifies this short-term strategy and tactic for living.

Cosby: "I don't know who these people [poor African Americans] are."
Dyson: "The poor folk Cosby has hit the hardest are most vulnerable to the decisions of the powerful groups of which he has demanded the least: public policy makers, the business and social elite and political activists. Poor black folk cannot gain asylum from the potentially negative effects of Cosby's words on public policy makers and politicians who decide to put into play measures that support Cosby's narrow beliefs."
Collier: “Our constitution should be amended to say citizens are guaranteed ‘life, liberty, and the competitive pursuit of happiness...” The poor people Mr. Cosby is saying he does not understand, suffer disproportionately from their choices, ahead of the rest of us. The passage of laws cannot offer the promise of not becoming someone else’s victim, but rather the opportunity of not becoming a victim, through the protection of available choices.

Cosby: "They're [poor African Americans] just hanging out in the same place, five or six generations sitting in the projects when you're just supposed to stay there long enough to get a job and move out."
Dyson: "Cosby completely ignores shifts in the economy that give value to some work while other work, in the words of William Julius Wilson 'disappears.' In our high-tech, high-skilled economy where low-skilled work is being scaled back, phased out, exported, or severely under-compensated, all the right behavior in the world won't create better jobs with more pay."
Collier: “I think Mr. Cosby is proposing that there is no substitute for the competitive response of the individual that converts social program support into economic change, with a high degree of urgency. Macro-economic shifts are going to occur, but it is a choice as to whether any group is disproportionately affected, as a function of their reaction to the change(s).

Cosby: "God is tired of you."
Dyson: "No matter how you judge Cosby's comments, you can't help but believe that a great deal of his consternation with the poor stems from his desire to remove the shame he feels in their presence and about their activity in the world. There's nothing like a formerly poor black multimillionaire bashing poor blacks to lend credence to the ancient assaults they've endured from the dominant culture."
Collier: “We all feel shame. However, the position of Black’s at the head of the line at America’s ‘complaint window’ has worn thin, including victim mentalities. This statement of frustration sums up what everyone, looking across the debate at their counterparts, feels with the issues of Black plight. The fact that Mr. Cosby utters these words is a function and combination of his celebrity status and dramatic wit.

Cosby: "You can't land a plane with 'why you ain't.' You Can't be a doctor with that kind of crap coming out of your mouth.where did these people get the idea that they're moving ahead on this."
Dyson: "Cosby's overemphasis on personal responsibility, not structural features, wrongly locates the source of poor black suffering—and by implication its remedy—in the lives of the poor."
Collier: “Mr. Cosby represents his personal reality – one of starting poor and ending up rich, largely because of choices and actions he took significantly of his own volition. This is what worked for him, as well as many others. Mr. Dyson’s ‘structure’ or system will never relocate Black people to parity with Whites, as it has no motive or opportunity, or DNA, to accomplish this. Personal responsibility is the final frontier, whether we like it or not.

James C. Collier


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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

GOP Unveils School Voucher Plan

GOP Unveils School Voucher Plan - Washington Post

As long as public schools under perform the requirements for teaching our children, the subject of vouchers will be with us. Vouchers are like putting ‘stolen’ tax dollars back into the hands of working people, who need them most, to enhance their circumstances.

Anyone who argues that Black parents should not have an escape mechanism from chronically bad schools, regardless of the reason, is placing their self-interests ahead of the students, and this specifically includes teacher’s unions.

This past year, my son’s fifth-grade teacher, in a mostly-White school, refused to emphasize math, frustrating us as well as other parents. We eventually pulled our son, and placed him in a Catholic school, rather than have his math gifts fall a year behind. The public school principal was powerless to bring the rouge teacher into alignment, as the teacher's union stood strong against all attempts to rectify the situation.

Make no mistake, vouchers are not a panacea. However, just as No Child Left Behind (NCLB) gives under performing schools money to hire remedial help, parents should be given relief to get the most for their tax dollars and children – on an individual basis. While the schools are getting their programs up to par, some more slowly than others, parents must be able to act. Telling them to wait is unacceptable.

James C. Collier


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Panel on Disaffection of Black Youths Airs Concerns, Ideas

Panel on Disaffection of Black Youths Airs Concerns, Ideas - Washington Post

The disaffection of Black youth, and Black males in particular, is steadily gaining attention, but with much less of the dissection required to lead us to solutions. There are at least two parts to solving this problem that if not recognized, significantly increase the difficulty of finding and implementing answers.

The first problem is tactical and about rehabilitating those young people who are currently in or out of school, but disenfranchised from realizing productive lives. The second problem is strategic and about how to change our programs of instructing and parenting, such that the factors leading to disenfranchisement are eliminated, before they take root.

The tactical problem is what to do with hundreds of thousands of Black youth who lack the education, skills, and attitudes to become productive members of their society. For them, criminal behaviors are too easily the only ‘opportunity’ they have to experience their dreams. These kids must be re-socialized and educated to a vocational minimum that makes them employment-worthy, at a level where they can feel good about, and legally support, themselves.

What is required is a government ‘continuation’ training program, or corps, that remediates youth the way the pre-high-technology military once did for marginal high school age boys with limited means of advancement. Youth could enlist voluntarily or with ‘encouragement’ from the same system that stands ready to incarcerate them, at significant yearly cost, for their behaviors. Remediation would include the three ‘R’s’, reading, writing, and arithmetic, but with critical thinking development, the ‘glue’ that was lacking on the first go around.

The strategic problem is what to change in our schools and parenting approaches that will make a difference for kids just starting out. Critical thinking must be added to our curriculums from the earliest point of instruction. Parents must be re-trained and supported as critical thinkers as well, to enhance their ability to practice and impart the science of making good choices in life.

The issues of disaffected youth are daunting, assuring that any solutions will not come easy or at a discount. Doing nothing, or pretending to do something, only results in more disaffection and all the resulting familiar social and economic costs.

James C. Collier


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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Bush to Address NAACP at 97th Gathering et al

Bush to Address NAACP at 97th Gathering - AP

President to Address NAACP Tomorrow - Washington Post

Bush's Poverty Talk Is Now All but Silent - Washington Post

At NAACP, Bush Tries to Mend Rift - Washington Post

For Bush and the NAACP, Uneasy Does It - Washington Post

Now that President Bush has agreed to address the NAACP, each side should consider a few ground rules that will surely enhance the experience and hopefully set a tone for on-going constructive dialog. The following are the top ten things that the NAACP and President Bush should be sure to do, or not do, when they meet:

1. NAACP members should not boo or heckle the president– he is not there to perform for them, nor they for him. Presidential decorum should be observed.

2. The president should not ‘break the ice’ in his usual way by saying something incredibly inane, obtuse, or amusing only to himself.

3. NAACP members should realize that unlike just about every other sitting president, George Bush has proven that he believes in the potential of Black people, albeit the ones most likely to have experienced gang-wedgies in grade school, except for General Powell.

4. The president should not apologize for his prior convention absences. If the benefits did not outweigh the risks in his mind, staying away was his prerogative.

5. NAACP members should ignore partisanship. Recall that 9 of 10 voted for Al Gore, inventor of the ‘Willie Horton’ scare-the-crap-out-White-folks race card, and the ‘real’ guy who put George Bush, the senior, into office.

6. The president should not act like a tough guy. Black people cannot resist the challenge of humbling a pompous-ass, even when it means they will suffer a much greater penalty in the end.

7. NAACP members should remember that the organization has a ‘relevance problem’, and getting the president to show up is significant to gaining attention that has meaning.

8. The president should remember that he has nothing, and everything, to apologize for, just like every other sitting president. He need not get ‘fancy’ with his words or his record.

9. NAACP members should accept that the President’s No Child Left Behind (NCLB) program, while only a tourniquet, has brought more attention and money to the plight of Black students than anyone would have ever believed.

10. The president should remember that Black people are in a state of bravado-camouflaged confusion about why the group is educationally and economically stalled. Inasmuch, they need leadership that is tough, caring, and effective – a challenge he needs to take very seriously.

James C. Collier


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Sunday, July 16, 2006

Georgetown's Hidden History et al

Georgetown's Hidden History - Washington Post

'We're Still Here' - Washington Post

Officer Apologizes for Racially Insensitive Comment - Washington Post

Police Inspector Who Made Racial Remark Back at Job - Washington Post

With all that has happened recently in Georgetown, a brutal murder and assault, and a side editorial of police ignorance, one thing is for sure – people are actually talking about race, rather than treating it like the ‘elephant in the front room’.

America clearly needs the therapy. This is evidenced by the polarity of sides that either largely denies the relationship of slavery to our current lives, or who would pin everything that happens on dastardly deeds of old. These absolutes in thinking and behaving are the result of not talking about race, not telling the truth, and most importantly, not seeking the truth.

Yes, Whites enslaved Blacks in brutal fashion, which their progeny generally regret, but have yet to reconcile, including their shame and resulting bounty. They face this conundrum as few others have over the last 5,000 years, because of the timing of humanity finally waking up to the immorality of people as property.

Blacks continue to wait for Whites to become people that humanity has never seen, or will ever see. It is not within the bounds of human nature, governed by the physics of time, to return time stolen. In waiting and wanting the impossible, Blacks deny themselves the journey of doing for themselves – a most terrible and continuing self-infliction.

Instances of talking about race should not require tragedies as the prime motivation. Sadly this seems to be the case.

James C. Collier


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Monday, July 10, 2006

Naval Academy's Questions About Race, Religion Stir Discord

Naval Academy's Questions About Race, Religion Stir Discord - Washington Post

The headlines in the local community news could easily blare, “Racism found hiding in homes of Annapolis”. The story makes it seem that the feelings of freshman sponsors are somehow odd when, quite to the contrary, they are the norm. It may not be moral, but it certainly is natural to have a preference for someone of the same ethnicity or religion.

The only interesting twist to the story is how obtuse the Naval Academy administration must be not to figure out a more subtle vehicle for allowing families and midshipman the ability to pair with participants for greatest comfort. Is this not why ‘mixers’ were invented?

Leaders say that stereotypes are inaccurate, yet we still apply them. We say sexism is bad, but we still treat men and women differently. Racism is bad too, yet each of us constantly battles the natural tendency to be racist. When we deny our own tendencies toward arbitrary discrimination, we rob ourselves of the learning that describes when the exercise of personal preference relieves another person of life, liberty or the full pursuit of happiness.

So before we square off and the race cards start ‘flying’ on all sides, let us take a moment to survey our own lives and how many times we dart into racist mindsets, only to quickly return to the protected haven of personal preference.

Yes, Annapolis should clean up its act, but so too should the rest of America, Black, White, and all the rest. This event allowed us a quick peek inside American homes. Americans live in glass houses when it comes to race, mostly because we do not pursue it as if it were an issue that we care to resolve.

James C. Collier


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Sunday, July 09, 2006

The Economics of Discrimination et al

The Economics of Discrimination - Washington Post

Feeling Unwelcome, Some Gays Vacate Virginia - Washington Post

Virginians, as well as citizens of other states looking to discriminate against gay people, should consider an even stronger incentive to avoid this damaging behavior. Yes, states that block same sex unions are less inviting to others and will indeed suffer, but this is just the beginning. Once arbitrary criteria gains official sanction, the merit-reward rule-of-advancement not only takes a step back, but goes to the end of the line of that society’s governing policy.

Analysts are correct in asserting that the steadfast pre-occupation of Southerners with maintaining Jim Crow policy made the region uninviting to growth industries. However, it was more damning that ante bellum Whites could not maintain discriminatory practices against Blacks, and at the same time, nurture advancing practices of merit within their own majority. In proverbial terms, ‘once the well is poisoned for one, it is poisoned for all’.

Southern Whites, attempting to help their region ‘rise again’, have simply never been those best able to do so, as the method for their selection and leadership has continued to be overly influenced by Southern tradition, including racism, and not competitive single-mindedness.

In fairness, the argument cuts both ways for Blacks as well. The group cannot insist on merit-based reward systems for opportunity while maintaining a four-decade dependence upon skin-color-based ‘plus factor’ enhancement. To do so only insures that the most capable and deserving members of the group will be under motivated and inadequately served, with all its resulting damage.

James C. Collier


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