Sunday, December 23, 2007

Acting White: Intelligence, Measurement And eBay

I run from any contest that measures the amount of hair on my head, for I will surely place near the bottom. It is human nature to avoid contest that we believe we will lose. However, if I really wanted hair I suppose I would save up my nickels and buy it, in many variations, including Rogaine, folical transplants, etc.

With this thought in mind, there is a controversy brewing around IQ tests for sale on eBay. It seems that authorities are concerned about the tests falling into the hands of people who might misuse them. Like steroids I suppose. More likely some entrepreneur, not unlike Kaplan, might get the idea to capitalize on the increasing stakes and offer an IQ ‘prep class’ for a nominal sum, and rake in millions.

I’ll get back to Ebay in a second, but this brings up the issue of measurement and our love-hate relationship with it. On one hand, it is only by measuring ourselves that we gain insights from the feedback. Quality gurus Deming and Juran jump-started a modern-day, post-war, industrial miracle called Japan, Inc. based on measurement. And failure was the daily hallmark before that country turned itself around. But then again measurement creates winners and losers, at least for the moment, and our society is increasingly desperate not to experience even a moment of failure, even on the road to success. This attitude, for those on the bottom, is very costly.

We are afraid that open pursuit of measuring intelligence locks us down, rather than providing opportunity, so we paint it as the most heinous tool of evil ever produced. The reality is that failure is the natural series of events which occurs before eventual success, in school, on the job, or playing field. Testing or not-testing does not change this. I worked harder knowing my IQ was not as high as I imagined. However, as long as educators treat measurement as something too complex for regular people to understand, and therefore buy into, they invite skepticism.

For the record, Black people do not universally mind being measured. They invite it in sports and artistic endeavors, because they think they will excel, even with racism. I also remember how some of my white classmates in high school complained that the physical education (P.E.) grades dragged down their G.P.A.’s. In the end, experience has proven that a few points in IQ or GPA simply does not make the difference for who succeeds in life. It has much more to do with attitude in the face of adversity.

So I’m all for eBay allowing the IQ tests sale. Educators are not so smart that they should stiff the scrutiny of regular folks over something that should make sense and be explainable. They contend that you cannot prep for the test, so why should it matter if the tests are available. BTW, they said the same thing about the SAT. Wrong. Granted, the administration and analysis of intelligence measurement is a professional challenge best in the hands of the qualified, but the wraps need to come off. Measurement only improves itself and its subjects when done in the light for all to see.

I will go further to predict that disparities in intelligence reach back much further than we ever imagined, including the time before there was more than one race. But it will surely take too much time to get to this truth as long as we continue to play the game of ‘hide and seek’ with one narrow swatch of smartness.

James C. Collier


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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Acting White: An Artisan Holiday

It's been two weeks since my last blog. I don't know how some bloggers keep up the pace. Issues stream in daily, begging for attention. I am thoroughly convinced of the importance of the blogosphere to our progress.

Nevertheless, I needed a diversion. I took an artisan vacation of sorts. I have always been intrigued with stipple drawings, particularly the headcuts unique to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), displayed by example in Apple Founder/CEO Steve Jobs (below).

The drawings, by talented artist, take many painstaking hours to lay down a series of dots of varying density. My goal was to let my computer do the heaviest 'lifting' in my own home-brewed process, on my way to becoming my very own stipple artist. I will let you judge my initial draft work below.

My process at it's base begins with a photograph separated into many levels of gray, each level then matched to a set of digital 'canvases' of dots of varying size and/or shade, which when properly overlayed, reveal the character of the subject by hiding and not-hiding each other, depending on whose on top.

Less one thinks computers have taken over, this is not true. Significant parts of the subjects must be interpreted and re-drawn before dots can be laid down. The separation process is far from exact and excluding a photograph's background is not a simple mask or cut. I can't tell you how many times my poor little lap-top went into cardiac-failure over manipulating millions of dots in memory.

For sure there are some programs that attempt to create these 'pointillist' renderings, but I found them lacking. They make the dots too big and simply cannot interpret as well as the eye. These problems preserve the few artist who do this work by hand, along with the WSJ's lock on them for $500 to $1,000 a pop.

Where I go with this new 'skill', I have no clue, but it was fun. I will more slowly hone my stippling skills for a time when the book is finished. Thanks go to my two subjects, the embattled President Mbeki of S. Africa and the newly elected Jacob Zuma of the African National Congress. Now back to the issues of 'acting white' and how we confuse this with 'acting right'.

James C. Collier


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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Acting White: The Baby and The Bath Water

A football player is dead, another in jail. Imus is back. Tasers are the new choke-hold. Young girls go missing. Prisons populations grow. War rages, towed by greed. Borders contain nothing. Jobs export, disparity imports. Blacks are becoming more and more dissatisfied, volatile and angry with each other, and others. The Urban Killing Fields cry for a fix.

But before we start fixing all the problems we must fix one problem. A kid can learn in school only if he wants to be there. And before Blacks can start to make America the place of their dreams, they have to want to be here. This is not easy, and not to be confused with not wanting to be somewhere else.

Being happy to be in America does not, in my opinion, make you a sell-out. Sure this country mistreats its citizens for various reasons, including race. But just go to Kingston, or Lagos or Rio and see how folks are doing. For my ancestors who died in Africa as competing tribalists, or as slaves in America, I am grateful, and I try to show it by treating my existence as something precious, a gift.

Does this mean supporting my country right or wrong? No. But does it mean acting like this country, with all of its warts, is the best place on the planet to get an education, get a job and have a family? – damn right. Where is this place where people will judge me only by the content of my character? I think it is called heaven and to get there I must be dead. No thank you. I don’t want to die yet, and I can’t wait. I’m too impatient.

If I honestly thought Africa, or any other place, was a better place for me, I would pack my bags and go there. But it is not. Circumstances, good and bad, brought me here to America. I start each day thinking that I want to be here because those before me sacrificed and the place has potential, including my contribution. But I must strive to contribute, not complain or tear it down on general principle. Grumbling in moderation is good. Voting, even protesting, against things that should stop, even better. Wanting to be here, priceless.

Sure, throw out the bath water when it’s spent, but keep that baby who just might grow up to do great things that make you proud. This is fix #1.

James C. Collier


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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Acting White: WARNING! Cancer Institute Updates Risk Calculator

I love it when people pretend to do black people favors, by making them honorary white people. As if trust is not already a big enough issue between the races, the National Cancer Institute (NIC) has recently updated its cancer risk calculator to better measure the risk of breast cancer in black women – but not really. The calculator now more accurately tells black women that more of them will die. That’s the good news. The problem is that it does not tell them why – that’s the honorary part I suppose.

The reason to measure risk is to identify contributing factors, thereby giving potential victims greater control over prevention. But don’t expect fewer black women to die - 8,000 this year - from this disease. White doctors, with the help of black doctors, continue to ignore the single greatest potential factor in breast cancer – Vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D researchers quietly project that at least half of those deaths could be prevented.

Oh sure, they say that black women have more ‘aggressive’ tumors. They say that black women seek treatment later in their progression, and are not as responsive to treatment regimens. Hell, there is a list of socio-economic attributes as long as my arm – education, income, wealth, weight, diet, you name it. But these are contributing factors to the disease, not directly causing or preventing it.

What we do know is that the immune system is the co-captain defense to cancer, behind self-regulation within the cell itself, and it needs Vitamin D in order to work properly. Like flipping a light switch, proper serum D levels allow the immune system to walk up to a wayward cancer cell and abruptly switch it off – killing it. We also know that black women are deficient in Vitamin D in the biggest way.

So Black women out there, do not be fooled. Sure, play the NIC game on their calculator, but know this, the melanin in your skin is blocking the production of a vital hormone that you need to fight breast cancer. You need a Vitamin D (D3) supplement, as do your kids, husbands, brothers, and fathers. 2,000 IU's per day is a good start.

Get Vitamin D and live.

James C. Collier


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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Acting White: Check the Trash

It was during the fall of 2005, and me damn near 50, that I stopped being embarrassed by the behavior of black people – my people. It is easy to beam pride when you hear jazz or R&B, witness a sporting event, or simply read about a black person distinguishing themselves in the positive. But what about all the negatives: drugs; violence; neglect; abuse; and general slacking? This flip side is the daily dose of the ‘what the hell is going on in the heads of black people?’ question.

Every ethnicity does things that embarrasses their group, but when your group is struggling the sting is greater. Even with what I know, I am regularly reminded, like today, how better it would be if every black person had the chance to feel free of the weighty burden of shameful group behaviors. For me the first step is not about stopping or admonishing the behavior, but rather understanding its origin.

Today I picked up my company’s two L.A.-based accountants at Oakland International, for a meeting. Due to traffic we took a surface short cut back to our offices, through the poorer Latino and black sections of the city. Ahead of us at a stop light a black man opened his car door and dumped an accumulation of trash onto the road. I have seen this behavior many times, but was still dumbfounded, as were my passengers, one white, one Asian.

As the stop light changed on the uncomfortable moment, I said, “Now that was interesting. What do you guys make of it? I figured I might capitalize on the odd moment and learn something new - but no such luck. Each of the accountants smartly remained mute. So I said, ‘well let me tell you what I think. I think that guy is about 40 years behind in his thinking and tossing trash into the streets is just one of many lagging behaviors probably holding him back’. They agreed and we all relaxed back into our ride.

Now this man’s failure to assimilate the ‘don’t be a litterbug’ behavior introduced 40 years ago might come from lagging assimilation or oppositional culture, but regardless, it is supported by below-average intelligence that itself went unchallenged by an education system that did not know what to do with him - a scenario repeated every school-day across this country.

For whatever the reason a group displays symptoms of lagging intelligence, internally or externally influenced, if it is ignored, or band-aided by excuses or arbitrary props, then we should expect the problems to get worse, as they have. This only makes sense. Yes, we can argue racism ‘until the cows come home’, but as Harvard Black Studies Prof. Henry Louis Gates contends, it does not come anywhere close to explaining the black condition.

We need to stop making excuses for the litterbugs. We need to keep looking for real questions and answers.

James C. Collier


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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Acting White: Feeling The White

Each day we deposit more collective thought into a national knowledge reservoir called ‘acting white’, describing 360-degrees of race/ethnicity and behavior in America. But if we step back a bit there is a pressing need to add the idea of feeling the majority, or euphemistically ‘feeling the white’, whereby a person feels an implicit self-empowered status - a feeling typically associated with being white-skinned in America.

Implicit empowerment is the ability to take control of situations for sustainable self-benefit. Whites, as the majority inhabitants of this country, possess this empowerment, or more accurately half of whites possess it. On average, one-half of 200 million US whites born to above-average intelligence (IQ>100) have authentic empowerment, while those with below average intelligence (IQ<100) have the pretense of empowerment, via skin-color, more or less.

If you are ‘feeling the white’, whether liberal or conservative, you feel good about yourself, albeit protective of your legacy, via your race and your intelligence. For good and bad, the American Dream is your birthright. On the other hand, if you are solely dependent on the advantage of skin-color, your below average station has you feeling poorly of yourself and more critical of the impact of others, outsiders, to gain or maintain advantage over you. This occurs despite being born white.

With an average relative intelligence that is less than whites, US blacks and Latinos experience less of feeling the majority, or ‘feeling the white’, than do actual whites, and proportionately more pretense. Their pretense, unlike that of below-average whites, has taken on an ‘oppositional’ character and trails that of below-average whites. Below-average white behavior moves in the same direction of other whites, but still lacks critical skills, resulting in a fleeting benefit. Of all blacks, again on average, only 16%, or 6.4 million, have the potential to truly ‘feel the white’, as they have the intelligence (IQ>100) that propels them above the average white person. We see this result. Alternately, 33.6 million US blacks, with their limitations (IQ<100), are reasonably drawn to activities of pretense, reduced assimilation and oppositional behavior, much to the dismay of the top 16% of the group.

So what is to be concluded from all of this? For starters, our notions of equality of potential and result must become less rigid to the true and differing abilities of the people, particularly related to education. Racial disputes from all sides are too often surrogates for what a person or group is ‘feeling’ about where they reside in the order. This racial behavior must be challenged against a new backdrop that includes inherent disparities of geography, ethnicity, heredity, and social happenstance, none of which can be ideologically dismissed, or ‘normed’, out of relevance.

All people are not ‘equal’, or prepared to move forward in an equal manner or result, despite contrary declarations. Public and private education at all levels must reject the one size fits all attitude that forces reactive add-ons as band-aids rather than integrated branches of a responsive educational system. In place of these programs, we must create new programs that affirm and motivate children of varying ability from conception through adulthood, with equal enthusiasm regardless of intelligence level, or ethnicity. Why treat everybody the same when some are clearly smarter? Because in the end not only do we need each child to realize their full potential, but we desperately need them to feel empowered at all levels to take sustainable control of their futures as adults - and just perhaps also cut each other some slack on the journey.

James C. Collier


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Friday, November 09, 2007

Acting White: Window on America. Dog, The Bounty Hunter


So what’s to make of Dog – Duane Chapman, aka Dog: The Bounty Hunter. He got himself and A&E in one heck-a-spot with his very dumb use of the n-word, to say the least. Now for the record, I am not a Dog-hater. In fact, I grew up with poor white folks in Dog’s hometown of Denver and he and I are not that far apart in age.

I cannot say whether Dog deserves to be ‘put down’, so to speak. On one hand, I can live without his crude hypocrisy, but I understand it, the same way I understand Al Sharpton getting his hair straightened once a week, so as to look ‘good’ while hunting guilt-ridden white folks. I accept the window Dog gives on a whole group of people that are invisible in America – poor white people. With all the complaining that goes on, poor whites are largely left out of the picture. Why? Because to place their plight beside blacks completely screws-up the two opposing pictures people typically attempt to draw – that poor dumb blacks are, by virtue of race, either responsible or not responsible for what ails the group and this country.

Now it is one thing to infer, as did Dr. James Watson, that this country’s 40 million blacks are dumb compared to its 200 million whites, but quite another to say that there are 32 million whites with IQ’s below 85, or dumber than the average black. Damn! That’s right folks, 32 million! And remember, these poor dumb white folks have absolutely no excuse for their plight. They are not the ancestors of squatters in Africa. They were not stolen slaves, forbidden from education. They were not even red-lined out of housing in Detroit, or Cleveland. They are just dumb folks with no plausible excuse, except their own randomly inherited way-below average intelligence.

I say that if we are going to consider a Dr. Watson-esque foray into genetics, race and intelligence, then we should lay all the cards out on the table. Talking about relative stupidity and its impact on the future is okay by me, but lets include the 32 million Duane ‘Dog’ Chapman’s too. They deserve to be included in whatever labeling we do, and solutions we identify. Do they not bleed?

As I see it, bringing poor white folks out of the self-segregated shadows will place a completely new spin on acting white discussions of the black ‘problem’. It will stop a lot of the confusion and trickery. Associations and behaviors that are too conveniently considered black will show themselves to be white, as well. Perhaps then we can get on to what is acting ‘right’, where the emphasis is on teaching ourselves about advancing behavior, regardless of skin-color or ethnic origin.

Maybe Dog, and his big dumb mouth, did poor dumb white and black folks everywhere a favor. He made them a little less invisible and ignorable for the moment. Just maybe…

James C. Collier


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Monday, November 05, 2007

Acting White: Sub Prime-Time For Blacks

When we take a hard look at who is bearing the brunt of the sub-prime lending melt-down, there are three relevant constituents; the investment houses, the consumers, and the rest of the world that gets whip-sawed when corrections happen.

Do I care about investors who take unreasonable chances with lenders in order to scoop up inordinate profits? Hell no! Let’m bake I say. Do I care about the rest of the world that gets slammed by some inevitable destabilizing flavor-of-the-month world event? Hell no (again), I believe in free markets and we all know that stuff happens. But what does matter to me is the people in the middle, disproportionately poor and/or black in ethnicity, who are loosing their homes. They are worth talking about.

Now it would be easy to say that the lenders are simply predatory racists and should be strung up. Did I say strung up? No, no, I meant drawn and quartered. But hold on a second. Greed is surely a motivator, but where does racism fit? Adjustable rate (ARM) and interest-only mortgages help more people qualify for home purchases and represent a relaxation of requirements, albeit balanced with mechanisms of higher risks. This would seem to be good for the poor as many more can buy homes, but goodness only arrives if the money is invested into real estate that performs, or at least holds it value. And herein lies part of the rub.

Black-owned real estate cannot escape certain historical behaviors of its owners, with the most influential being the propensity for blacks, in my experience, to carry a higher level of deferred maintenance on their properties, too often by choice. From my earliest recollections as a kid, and anecdotally to the present, I am amazed at the quality of automobiles that grace the streets and driveways of houses crying out for the attention of their black owners. The pristine neighbor’s 'Hog' of my youth is now replaced with a Mercedes-Benz, but the result is the same - fences remain broken, roofs crumbling, paint peeling, and lawns languishing. All the while, monies that could encourage appreciating properties are poured into rolling, depreciating 'status' assets, themselves destined for the ravages of the deferred maintenance ethos.

Now is the Mercedes-Benz dealer racist because he sells you a car that he only suspects will keep you from fixing your house, or paying the mortgage? Is the banker racist because he charges higher interest to off-set a higher default rate associated with these behaviors? No, these trade offs fall to the buyer and where they see themselves and their financial future. Unfortunately, many blacks are not looking out far enough to see the financial fallacy in their choices. These mortgages are opportunities to build a good credit ‘bridge’ from the past to cheaper credit, but borrowers are not using them this way.

I still believe that banks indirectly red-line neighborhoods by race. This is most easily accomplished by simply not being available to those consumers. I also believe that certain types of high-interest lending are indeed predatory and should be outlawed. And if the Fed is willing step in to help interest rates and the economy, they should also let their teeth find the back sides of some of these scum-bag lenders, ahead of the abuse. But every borrower must take it upon themselves to ‘give to get’ – that is, they must give up some style points to get some financial advancement.

Yep, that’s it, give to get, easy to say, harder to do, but worth the sacrifice.

James C. Collier


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Thursday, November 01, 2007

Acting White: Shades of Tuskegee

After reading so much on alleged black inferiority, coming on the heels of DNA guru James Watson’s meltdown and exit, I decide to revisit one of my research interests. The role of Vitamin D has a heretofore-missing voice in the discussion of intelligence. The gap in the debate looms in a way that should remind us of what went on in Tuskegee 75 years ago, when black men with syphilis became part of a gruesome research experiment.

If you recall, it was in Tuskegee, Alabama from 1932 until 1972, that white government doctors looking to extend the known science of the impact of syphilis on humans, secretly ‘captured’ undiagnosed black men with the disease. They sought this knowledge about the impact on blacks even after penicillin had been proven effective as a cure, beginning with laboratory rabbits. The 399 men were denied knowledge of their infections or access to the medicine that would have cured them. Instead, the disease was left to progress untreated. The fate of these men at the hands of these doctors-without-souls was horrendous. It was only their skin color that made them akin to laboratory animals, and undeserving in the name of science.

So the question today is what have we learned in all these years since Tuskegee? Answer; ‘plausible deniability’, it would seem. If one can somehow credibly deny knowledge of a potential negative impact, then they are not responsible, or so it goes.

Research tells us that the link between Vitamin D and brain development in humans is practically irrefutable. The research on laboratory rats is certain that Vitamin D deficiency leads to under developed brains. But who in their right mind would run this experiment on humans, with the permanent damage guaranteed to follow? The sad answer is that this is exactly what is happening in this country. The Center for Disease Control pegs Vitamin D deficiency in US black women at 42% (8.8 million), with 12 percent (2.4 million) of those women classified as severely deficient. Severe deficiency guarantees that black newborns suffer disproportionate intelligence-stealing neuro-development challenges, prior to higher cancer rates later as adults. When we see black kid’s under performance in school and continuing into working adulthood, we are looking, in part, at the results of this continuing experiment - an experiment where the cure is a $.10 pill each day.

To be clear, our government is not repeating Tuskegee per se, but by refusing to address such a significant and known public health challenge, it is no less culpable in the diminished lives of black citizens who will suffer as surely as did those 399 black men in Tuskegee, not so long ago.

James C. Collier


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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Acting White: Come On, People.

I have followed Bill Cosby’s efforts to, in his words, ‘shake-up’ black people, most recently in his book, “Come On, People” and I have listened to his detractors to understand their disagreements with him, his content and/or his approach. In all of the conversations, the point that comes home for me is the emotional magnitude of the problem and the desperation of everyone to light the match of change, including the efforts of veteran wise men turned author duo of Cosby and Alvin Poussaint M.D., noted Harvard Professor of Psychiatry.

Indeed the magnitude is great, but for many, Cosby’s dramatic presentation is too easily minimized and derided, in the same way people are admonished for seeing a glass as half empty, rather than half full. For my own perspective, I have tried to quantify the magnitude of current black plight in America. Using the National Urban League’s equality index (.73) as the starting point, the tally for black disparity-of-result in all measures of living, including housing, education, employment, and wealth, is enormous. Using census data, the bill that matches black disparity comes to over $440 billion dollars per year - or more than the total yearly gross domestic product (GDP) of all of Sub-Sahara Africa.

I appreciate Dr. Cosby‘s willingness to use Poussaint’s expertise to back-up his words, be it as the creator of “America’s Favorite Dad”, Cliff Huxtable, or as black America’s straight-talking “Daddy-Moses”, attempting to lead his people from the depths. With Poussaint’s help, Cosby has challenged many misconceptions of blackness, but no amount of artistry can, nor should it ever try to, hide the pain quantified in a $1.2 billion per day loss of participation of African-Americans. That’s $30 per day loss GDP for every black man, woman, and child!

The monetary cost are mind-boggling, but of course it really is not about the money but rather the human toll. On one side you have blacks suffering all the negative emotional and physical affects of not achieving that which seems so achievable, as shown by the top quartile of the group. On the opposite side there is a growing feeling that enough accommodation has been ceded. Two angles, each with its own validity.

So when Cosby shows frustration, or indignation at people who refuse to see, hear, or acknowledge the problems they face, he is representing an entire community. Specifically he reflects wise, frustrated, aged black men, regardless of the protestations of those who are uncomfortable with the 'airing'. The unfortunate truth is that team Cosby, or others for that matter, cannot solve this problem alone. The whole country must dig deep to be part of the solution, and the first thing we must swallow is our embarrassment and resentment over the living, breathing proof of complicity. And while we work hard to accept those disparities before us as ultimately our own, perhaps we can also work as hard to avoid the tendency to want to shoot the much-needed messenger.

James C. Collier


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Monday, October 22, 2007

Acting White: Dr. Watson and the PC Police

I’ll say again that I can recognize DNA discoverer James Watson’s contribution as a scientist while disagreeing with things he says. His words of a few days ago regarding black intelligence relative to whites, however incorrect and misguided in part they might be, do not erase the immense benefit that people, including blacks, have received from his achievements.

My greater concern here is that the vehement reaction to his comments, while effectively silencing this old loose cannon, does a greater detriment to the required discussion of genetics, intelligence and the public policy that naturally follows. The closets that geneticist, along with the people who need to understand them, are further driven into just became a little deeper.

From the discussions I have participated in on the subject, Watson’s comments reflect the unspoken beliefs of many in the scientific and professional community – but all I hear is public denial, which is utter BS. It is the rare scientist who can stand up and say these beliefs, for fear of losing their appointment. So how then are we to have a proper debate? How do we identify the point when good science spins off into racism? Instead the discussion happens behind closed doors, often one-sided, only to become whispering at cocktail parties, and ultimately half-baked ‘unspoken’ policy.

Furthermore, I have learned to holster my automatic race card against the mere mention of genetics and IQ disparities. Instead, I attempt to identify what science does and does not really know about the subjects and to gage when discussions have jumped into ‘wishful’ thinking, lacking a proven base. At these deviations, I use knowledge and debate skills versus accusations and threats, in an attempt to return to firm ground. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes not.

While I do not agree with Dr. Watson in many areas, I want him and others to be able to say what they think with only the fear of scientific correctness in their eyes. This is miles better that the emotion, real and/or faked, of people who are either fearfully ignorant of the state of the science, or worse, pretending to believe and support one position, while harboring and pursuing something totally the opposite.

James C. Collier


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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Scientist's Remarks on Blacks Cause Furor

Scientist's Remarks on Blacks Cause Furor - WP

Furor indeed! I’m incensed. Well, maybe not that mad, but I’m still pretty po’d. How could one of my boyhood heroes say such a stupid thing. After all, the discovery of DNA, the instruction set to the human body, was revolutionary to human science and defined my ninth grade experience, 36 years ago.

But wait a minute, the emeritus Watson is 79 and prone to say stupid things for quite some time. Now I can recall that my Dad said some pretty crazy things prior to and certainly once he got into his seventies. In fact, once I know a person is beyond seventy, I expect them to say crazy things. Additionally, if that person is front-loaded with a Nobel, I know that I am likely to hear some serious contradiction.

At his age, Watson can easily confuse the world he started in and the one that is about to consume him. He can do this daily, weekly, or monthly, until he takes his last breath, and particularly when someone sticks a microphone in his face or quotes him for publication. I think the people who care for and depend on him should have better judgment in what circumstances he is placed.

It makes sense that Watson is not claiming to be misquoted, but rather simply cannot understand, with refection, how he could say the things attributed to him. It is called senility people. Get ready; it is coming for all of us.

To be clear, Watson’s statement on black v. white intelligence was better left for a proper debate on testing validity. He is revisionist on his assumed equality in ‘white’ social policies of the past or present. Leading countries have continually sought and exploited disparities of less advanced groups at every turn.

But let’s save our energy for leading science, and properly ignore this old man who has contributed much. Hopefully his caretakers will begin to do a better job. I felt the same way when Andrew Young derailed on Korean store owners in Atlanta a while back. We will all eventually get to a place where we say stupid things. We can only hope that we have something of equal or greater value to offset the inevitable symptoms of the ravages of time.

James C. Collier


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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Acting White: NPR News & Notes II

NPR’s News and Notes invited me to appear on their bloggers roundtable for the second time this past week. The link to the show is here. We discussed track Olympian Marion Jones and her troubles with the authorities related to her admission to the use of performance enhancing drugs. We also talked about the issues around using the term Hispanic versus Latino to described people of recent Central and South American origin. There was also a topic we did not get to, wherein a poll revealed that white kids are significantly happier than minority kids in their young lives.

Like my earlier blog, I came out recognizing that prohibiting drugs that authorities do not know exist is nonsensical. Going further, there are some who believe that inasmuch as the competitive arenas encourage athletes to place their bodies under extraordinary stress, they should not be denied enhancement. This is analogous to taking caffeine when your boss requests a double-shift.

The Hispanic versus Latino debate is more complex. Both terms are of European origin and preference is really dependent on age, socio-economic status, country of origin, and current locale. The reality is that the central and southern Americas were populated by people from around the globe who then intermixed, and there is no practical one-size-fits-all name that works. Oh well.

The topic we missed was, perhaps, the most interesting in that the very nature of a happiness disparity invites conclusions of wrongdoing, but I remain skeptical. Curiously the happiness disparity lines up with high school graduation disparities, test disparities, skills disparities, wage disparities, and health and longevity disparities. Sure, racism is a factor, but my research consistently reveals other factors as driving these disparities, largely pertaining to behaviors reaching back thousands of years to individual and group locations of ethnic origin (LEO). But this is a topic for a book.

James C. Collier


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Friday, October 05, 2007

Acting White: Justice Clarence Thomas

I watched a replay of the 60 Minutes interview of Clarence Thomas yesterday, on YouTube , and continue to find the man as perplexing as ever. When I hear him repeat that senior Bush selected him to succeed Thurgood Marshall because he was the most qualified candidate, I nearly fall out of my chair - again. He continues to ignore the bevy of Black jurists that had more than barely one year under their robes as judges, as well as legal experience and pedigree’s far surpassing his own.

Anyway, what is really worth talking about here is, as WP columnist Eugene Robinson said, not about how little the public thinks of Thomas, but rather how little he thinks of himself. It is very sad that he cannot reconcile the many twists and turns of his own life in getting where he is today, and how this should inform his role as a judge.

The idea that affirmative action (AA) needs to be overhauled so that more of the historically disadvantaged, including blacks, are benefited does not erase efforts of those, like Thomas (and me included) who more selectively benefited from the program, worts and all. He forgets that just a short time before he was helped by AA, blacks more qualified than he were denied education, purely on the basis of race.

I submit that his difficulty getting a job out of law school likely had more to do with him, personally, than with bigotry. He may have believed his Yale degree would get him the red-carpet treatment, but that was his miscalculation of society, not a failing of AA. Did AA take his exams? Did it sit for the bar in his place? Did it make his Yale classmates or professors go easy on him? Perhaps, but this was not my graduate school experience. The truth is there are too many AA dropouts wandering about for anyone to think that the program did more than push people, some ready some not, through a door previously closed. AA was a band-aid to the boiling-point problems of the 1960's, and is long overdue for replacement with more thoughtful programs.

Thomas takes out his personal bitterness, for not being likable, on his past. He does this in crude fashion that reveals an emotional ‘chip’ so large it disqualifies his position on the court. I contend that it further compromises his judgment, in addition to his contemptuous treatment of precedence set in case law. Staking out the most conservative position on the court is nothing more than creating a safe and formulaic place where he avoids the distinguishing challenge of his own and the country's internal conflicts, which any good jurists must learn to navigate while administering the law.

The only reason his law degree is worth $0.15 is that he needs this to be true to justify, in his mind, the Republican stripes he desperately donned in order to hop onto Senator J.Danforth's coattails, and ultimately onto the high court.

James C. Collier


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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Marion Jones Admits to Steroid Use

Marion Jones Admits to Steroid Use - WP

My quick take on Marion Jones’ admission to taking performance-enhancing drugs is this – the ability to detect the substance at stake, ‘the clear’, and therefore to plausibly attempt to keep it out of sports, was not possible until after it was in service and proven effective. So what is the point of prohibition?

The athletes at the top of their respective sports have the most resources and most to gain from research and usage, illicit or not, of new drugs. The medals that are won and records that are broken are the most likely outcomes influenced by these continuously-in-development drugs, not yet detectable by authorities. So again, I ask, what is the point of prohibition?

People have always risked injury, and even premature death, for the spot light and its rewards. Banning drugs after the fact only catches those who slack on the latest technology, or do not possess the judgment to exit their game on top.

For the record, I am against these drugs because they are untested and unsafe, and young people follow the behavior of these athletes. But the current prohibition does nothing to limit use or the encouragement that follows, and we should recognize this.

Catching people in lies, and punishing them after the fact, presumes some sort of honor system is in place, and this is simply not true, and never has been.

James C. Collier


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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Acting White: Rule of Law

I have been scratching my head over how utterly different are the viewpoints coming out of the Jena Six trial, depending on the skin-color leading the discussion. The majority of blacks, but not all, believe that the defendants should go free, while the majority of whites, again, not all, believe the defendants should be tried at least as juveniles, and potentially as adults. Like the prosecutor in the case, whites also discount the seriousness of the three nooses as the accelerant to the events.

In stepping back from the emotion of the situation, I believe we are in a modern-day confrontation, in part, from the social remains of a disparity in the development and assimilation of the rule of law, as practiced by black and white, dating back thousands of years to both Africa and Europe.

The rule of law can be simply described as the evolving set of rules, or laws, that a society utilizes to govern its citizens with the goal of enhancing social trust, a key ingredient in advancement and competitiveness. The current World Bank index for the rule-of-law closely correlates to a country’s gross domestic product (GDP), level of technology development, and overall industrial ranking and economic strength.

African-American attitudes predictably reflect the influence of evolutionary rule-of-law progress of their locations of ethnic origin (LEO), that being the region of West Africa. By the measurements of the World Bank, West African countries rank, with exception, at the trailing edge of countries advancing via the rule of law. So even as we include for racism as a factor, it still turns out that the greater influence for black progress is a propensity to simply view laws and their benefit differently, with greater influence from historical Africa.

By example, just days ago I was admonished by Eddie Griffin, a black blogger of note, as acting white, because I disagreed, pertaining to Jena, with Mychal Bell’s alleged use of lethal force as a reasonable response to the indignity of a noose hanging over a tree. I suggest that it is our different notions of the rule of law that give encouragement to Mr. Griffin and others to believe it is reasonable to knock someone unconscious over an indignity, and especially one of this magnitude. My assimilation of a majority-influenced implementation of the rule of law, in his mind, makes me more white than black, and a form of enemy. I now understand his perspective.

Griffin’s accusation, similar to Reverend Jackson's accusation to Senator Obama, makes my point most clearly. I am a minority in a country governed by a constitution largely of European ancestry. The standard of behavior, regardless of my preference, is influenced, but not set by me or my history, and any insistence over the democratic majority and their influence will reasonably meet resistance. On average, I believe the rule-of-law works to the benefit of black progress, as does first amendment protection of free speech, and we cannot carve out behavior as outside its jurisdiction when it suits us, even as we rightly press for its impartial application in cases such as Jena.

This is some part of what is going on here.

James C. Collier

Addendum: The Trouble with Jena’s Six


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Monday, September 24, 2007

Acting White: Jena in Review

Much has been said about the events of Jena, LA in the last few weeks. Some are heralding it as a victory, while others are mourning it as a loss. Not surprising is how race is the dividing line between viewpoints of the proceedings. This distance, and it is great, is the road we must still travel.

On one hand, I was heartened that young Mr. Bell was jettisoned from adult court and charges, where his future looked very uninviting. The prospects that the prosecutor in the case will revise the charges against the other defendants, as well, is indeed a victory, however small, of the people and the judicial system over those who are suppose to impartially administer it.

On the other hand, it saddens me to know that the white boys involved received a free pass for their despicable and illegal behaviors, and now we march to insure that the blacks are also NOT held accountable. Since when has it become progress that justice is served when neither side has to face the music for their actions? However they are tried, these boys need to stand before some form of a justice system prepared to re-instate responsibility in all of them, white and black, fairly and equally.

The fact that the best we can do is let dangerous black boys go free to inevitably meet up with dangerous, and already-free, white boys is ludicrous. Mychal Bell, once a promising football star, is up for his third assault charge in two years. A six-on-one fight where the lone combatant was knocked unconscious is not a schoolyard fight, it is an assault. For those who think the severity of their actions was overstated, any coroner can attest that the unconscious state of a victim is the most common symptom preceding actual death.

As far as hangman’s nooses go, they fit in that category of displays like swastikas, confederate flags, and other symbols of violence or hate – they are not worth surrendering our first amendment rights, so we must live with them and their discomfort. Also, there is no demeaning name, in any language, which justifies the lethal force that knocks someone out. I fear for Mr. Bell and his next combatant, as it is only a matter of time before his current trajectory lands him in a prison cell.

Dr. King was right fifty or so years ago when he said to ignore the haters and march on. I believe he would say the same today. But we forget that King was hawkish on the behaviors precipitating change. Mr Bell and his classmates stand at the front of that change line with anti-King clenched fists, and the future looks fairly bleak.

James C. Collier


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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Jackson Criticizes Obama (for acting like he's white) - Part II

Out of respect for the tenor of phone calls I have received in the last day on Reverend Jackson’s acting white accusation toward candidate Obama, a follow-blog is warranted…

Some interesting information has caused me to conclude that there is more to this event than meets the eye, as usual. For starters, I continued to wonder why Jesse would endorse Barack and then trash him. Jackson is certainly known to play all sides to his advantage and switch horses at opportune times, but I believed there is more…

To start, who really loses in this exchange? Barack? No. Jesse? No. Who else matters? Ms. Hillary for one. Jackson’s slip-of-the-tongue certainly helps Obama grab at white Demo fence sitters who lean toward him, but are less comfortable with his attention to blacks. Barack’s delayed attention to blacks was timed, but costly, in that blacks and black voters are, unfortunately, not synonymous, whereas this is significantly more true for whites and white voters. Why this is so is another discussion…

No one understands the black vote more than Jackson, along with his Illinois Congressman son, Jesse Jr., who happens to be one of Obama’s national campaign circle. No Sh-Shazam! Jesse & Son signed on to Obama to help him, but the endorsement has traded high probability white voters for low probability black voters – not a good deal with Hillary within spittin' distance. So then what can young Jackson do about this before Barack has him licking mailers with the campaign interns?...

Cook up something with Reverend Dad, that’s what! If Dad’s endorsement cost Obama points in the race, then perhaps a skirmish might stem the tide, and keep Jackson, the younger, firmly seated near the front at the Obama strategy table. Dad won’t mind falling on a plastic sword for his namesake and press attention. Hell, he'd do it for the press alone, "I'm Jesse dammit!". Any good father would do this, right? For Jackson, help has always been a malleable instrument for achieving a particular result…

Nothing more.

So there you have it. Saying Jesse is stupid is just too easy. I am happy to entertain other explanations, as campaign politics is definitely not my day job.

James C. Collier


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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Jackson Criticizes Obama (for acting like he's white)

Jackson Criticizes Obama (for acting like he's white) - The State

Now hold on Reverend. First you endorse the guy for president and then slam him for acting white! What gives? It seems that Jesse thinks Obama’s reaction to the Jena Six prosecutorial debacle is too tepid for his taste. Barack’s statement that “When nooses are being hung in high schools in the 21st century, it’s a tragedy,” was not good enough.

Jesse went on to say, “If I were a candidate, I’d be all over Jena”. No surprise there, but this would be from a man with less than a snowball’s chance in hell of actually winning. Going to Jena for Jesse is all about guilt-leverage to extract ‘blood’ payments to his Rainbow Coalition initiatives, as he has been doing for forty years. Perhaps the nuance in practice here is that Jesse did not say, “If I were a viable candidate…”.

Along with comments like Obama’s and those of other prominent leaders, the real pressure comes from the spotlight of the various media letting all the world see just how far off-track racial sanity can still go here in America, even after the Duke scandal. Whether it is newspapers, radio, television, or the internet, there has been an invaluable stream of coverage and scrutiny on Jena, with plenty of stupid-blame to go around. And what is it with prosecutors in the South, anyway?

As for the Reverend’s accusation of Barack acting white, Jesse definitely knows how to tee-up the headlines and insure that that the cameras and microphones point to him for some tasty morsels to feed a slime-hungry public. I do not think he means this accusation for one second, rather it is just one opportunistic black civil-tician grand-standing the race card with a twist of lime, to advance his agenda.

Nothing more.

James C. Collier


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Monday, September 17, 2007

O.J. Simpson Is Charged In Alleged Robbery

O.J. Simpson Is Charged In Alleged Robbery

Mychal Bell is free of adult charges and OJ is behind bars, at least for the moment, so the justice buffet is open again, so to speak. Perhaps this time OJ’s celebrity status, color, and charisma will not see him slip his just desserts. I think those “If I did it?” words are going to haunt the NFL great this time around.

The Juice is saying that he would not be so stupid as to commit such a robbery, but we all know that this is not true. He is probably thinking that since he beat a double murder conviction, and a $38 million civil judgment, how difficult should it be to rip-off some collectibles and slip back into Florida in time for an alibi of road rage and nine holes.

Well just like Michael Vick forfeited his status as highest paid football player, in order to run a very lucrative dog-fighting business, them OJ collectibles ought to be worth a lot of bucks to make up for all the time he might be doing as a result. Let’s see now, $75,000 in loot in exchange of multiple years (decades even) behind bars – yep, that OJ is a certified genius.

Well this time there is no Johnnie Cochran to save his butt and OJ does not have the money to get too fancy, so it is going to be interesting. Hopefully the Vegas police play it straight and do not try to ‘help’ the prosecutor by tossing in extra evidence, like a picture of OJ with a black-call girl accomplice, or something equally believable. But then again, you never know…

James C. Collier


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Saturday, September 08, 2007

Prostate Cancer More Deadly In Black Men

No, this is not today’s headline, although I have witnessed it in the past and would not be surprised to continue seeing it in the future. Fact is, Black men do indeed die at a higher rate from prostate cancer than other groups, but not because the group’s tumors are different. The immune system of blacks, the main line of defense against cancer, is disproportionately compromised by a deficiency in Vitamin D, and this is why prostate, and other internal cancers, seem to be more aggressive.

I could say that the medical community is simply showing their insensitivity to the needs of blacks, but this would not explain why whites are being allowed to suffer their own proportionate fate from the deficiency, as well. The prostate cancer rates in American white men are well above what you would expect if their blood serum measured normal levels of 1,25(OH)2D3, the active form of vitamin D3 our bodies use.

I could also say that the research into biologic differences in tumors in blacks versus whites is some 'race game' when the immune system ‘playing field’ of the two groups is so obviously unequal, due to varying melanin and sunlight. But I would also have to wonder why the high cancer rates of whites in the sun-starved northeast, relative to whites in the southern US, has not caught the attention of the medical establishment. Is this a conspiracy to rid the country of Yankees and blacks, with but one stone?

What we have here is a medical community that is horrendously slow and stupid, even while it harbors pockets of research brilliance. The FDA continues to recommend levels of daily vitamin D so inadequate that the public is guaranteed to measure at, or near, zero during a routine physical exam. But that same FDA can fast-track drugs that cost an arm-and-a-leg, and carry so many side-effect warnings that you feel sorry for the lab mice who were forced to take the stuff in trial.

I can only say that I am overwhelmed with the research results the medical community continues to unearth that could make our lives better, while at the same time being profoundly disturbed with what they actually do with this vital information, as measured by what I have had to go through to come to subscribe to the value of vitamin D in our lives.

I'll keep writing about it, and hope that somebody is listening.

James C. Collier


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Thursday, September 06, 2007

Breast Cancer More Deadly in Black Women - AP

Breast Cancer More Deadly in Black Women - AP

Articles like this one are absolutely maddening. They misinform and scare the hell out of black people and the group’s notions of battling cancer. The only ‘biological factor’ enhancing breast cancer in black women, other than being ‘poor’, is the CDC-confirmed vitamin D deficiency occurring in nearly 42% of black women, compared to a 4% deficiency in white women.

In opposition to the article, the described heightened E-R negative status of breast tumors in black women is reasonably the direct result of the vitamin D deficiency which the group suffers, resulting from the interplay of dark skin and low sun-light. To get a little technical, the pictured vitamin D-3 receptor (VDR) is expressed in the mammary gland, where it “functions to oppose estrogen-driven proliferation and maintain differentiation;”. In other words, the active form of vitamin D3 serves the very function that the expensive pharmaceuticals are miserably attempting. If you are interested, quickly check for yourself here.

And the story gets even worse. Without sufficient levels of vitamin D or effective, albeit expensive, drugs like tamoxifen and new aromatase inhibitors, black women are drawn in higher numbers to more invasive therapies, chemicals and radiation, that permanently weaken their D3-supported immune systems, and with it their critical natural body defenses against cancer.

So there you have it. Counter to articles such as this, the most significant biological difference in black women is that history delivered their ancestors into a reduced-light latitude, which their bodies only need a few thousand years to properly adjust. In the meantime, 2,000 IU’s of a cheap pill (D3), taken once a day, would certainly go a long way toward achieving a projected and immediate 50%+ reduction in internal cancers and eliminating the health disparities which black women, and black people in general, are needlessly suffering.

James C. Collier


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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Acting White: Affirmative Action Harms Minority Law Students

When I first saw that the Civil Right Commission was going to weigh-in on this quantitative study of affirmative action impact, I thought, “Its about time somebody showed some interest”. I, for one, have spent tens of hours sloshing through UCLA Professor Sander’s study and counter-rebuttals, as well as the disproof’s his Stanford Law Review article has inspired. However, my enthusiasm quickly waned as I realized that partisan politics have long-since taken over the position of any given commission. Anything the current Republican-swayed group says needs to be considered with a jaundiced eye, as would also be the case under a Democratic president.

Regardless as to which side you take, whether that affirmative action admission results in a ‘mismatch effect’ or not, both sides repeatedly agree that blacks are increasingly suffering inside, and outside, of higher education, as the result of current affirmative action. What is amazing is that all sides seem more intent on arguing the emotionally charged cause of the failure, rather than acknowledging their agreement that the failure itself calls for something ‘new’, which the whole country can rally behind.

Whether the current affirmative action is ineffective because the majority no longer supports it, or that it is an implementation that has exhausted its efficacy, is of no real consequence. As a solution, it is history and we need to replace it with something better. Racism will always be with us, but as I look about, I submit that economic-based classism rules our lives. We need affirming programs that support poor citizens gaining the skills to be competitive in their contributions. Our progress must be about making new opportunity, rather than arbitrarily redistributing it. These new programs would undoubtedly scoop up those same poor blacks the current programs are forsaking, regardless of which argument leads the un-winnable ‘why’ debate.

So then, who will lose out if we replace current affirmative action with ‘new and improved’ programs? Concisely, the losers will be rich kids, black and white. Each will get less of a boost for simply being rich and/or being black. Legacy programs maintain the status quo, where rich white kids fair the best, and where rich black kids too often ‘skate’ on initiatives that they really should not qualify for, based on their available resources.

What poor kids need, both black and white, are tailored skill-building programs that launch them properly into competitive mindsets and arenas where they get to ‘sink or swim’ along with everyone else. We must move past our racist fears that blacks cannot perform on par with whites, when given the opportunity. But mostly, we must reject the bait of the rich who are happy for the lower economic classes to argue and fight on lose-lose racial battlegrounds crafted to maintain the status quo.

James C. Collier


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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Cancer Rates Pegged to Vitamin D Levels

First, the bad news…

ACS publication Cancer Facts & Figures for African Americans 2007-2008.

• Prostate cancer is 2.4 times more deadly for black men than for white men.
• Breast cancer is 1.4 times more deadly for black women than for white women.
• Colon cancer and breast cancer rates are declining more slowly for blacks than for whites.
• By the time black Americans find out they have cancer, their cancer is at a later stage than for newly diagnosed white Americans. There are fewer treatment options for later-stage cancer.
• For all major cancers, black Americans are less likely than whites to survive five years after diagnosis -- even when their cancers are diagnosed at the same stage.

Now, the good news…

“Study Shines More Light on Benefit of Vitamin D in Fighting Cancer"

Researchers at the Moores Cancer Center at the University of California, San Diego, conducting a first-of-its-kind meta-analysis study, estimate that 250,000 cases of colorectal cancer and 350,000 cases of breast cancer could be prevented worldwide by increasing vitamin D, especially in locations north of the equator. This represents a whopping 50% reduction. Researchers added that 150,000 of the preventions would occur in the US.

This is the first study to recommend optimal levels of vitamin D blood serum, which goes by the name, 1,25-hydroxyvitaminD3. The optimal levels correspond to 2,000 International Units (IU) per day of vitamin D3.

“The researchers underscore their call for prompt public health action to increase intake of vitamin D3 as an inexpensive tool for prevention of diseases that claim nearly one million lives each year world-wide.”

Well folks, there you have it (again), take vitamin D and live!

James C. Collier


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Monday, August 20, 2007

N.F.L.’s Vick Accepts Plea Deal in Dog-Fight Case

N.F.L.’s Vick Accepts Plea Deal in Dog-Fight Case - NYT

I know little of Atlanta football super-star Michael Vick, other than his recent troubles and plea bargain for professional dog fighting. So all I will say is that any owner who gives someone a $130 million dollar contract with $37 million guaranteed, should have a few guys planted in said super-star's ‘posse’ to warn of possible behavior that might sink the ship. If the Atlanta ownership had any savvy at all they should have considered this outcome and saved all of this mess, at the cost of a few additional Benjamin’s. On the other-hand, if the owner is insured against Vick’s self-implosion, then ‘what the hell’.

James C. Collier


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Acting White: Africa in America

My daughter’s best friend from her earliest school days is the child of Muslim immigrants from Libya and Yemen. For those who are geographically-challenged, Libya is in North Africa, while Yemen is a stones-throw away just east of Ethiopia. The family is part of a larger family, mostly of women, brought here by a patriarch who opened a grocery store and made good on the American dream.

The children and grandchildren of this old man, who has since retired to Yemen, have done well for themselves, beginning with education and ending in marriage to Muslim men vetted from the top – and herein is the rub. The top down view prizes men from Africa, of any color, who are Muslim, and rejects Black American men as the most unacceptable of suitors. It seems that Black American men are viewed, as a rule, as lazy and unmotivated by our North African brothers.

When I first heard of this thinking and behavior of my good friend, I was offended. But on the other hand, I have studied and written about stereotypes and why they survive and prosper as useful shortcuts to helpful and painful truths, depending on where you sit. I concluded that the battle of the black man is not the same everywhere, although most would have it so.

African immigrants in America, lead by their males, win the coveted spot of most highly educated demographic in the US, with nearly 50% earning college degrees. This accomplishment is beyond that of Asians; is two-times greater than whites; and four times greater than American-born Blacks. Black American men hold the opposite title of achieving the least of any US demographic, except for Native Americans.

Now, as I place myself in the old patriarch’s shoes, I see that my fight is not his fight, unless he chooses it so, and he is an old man from a very different place. The origins of the problems of America’s Blacks are not of their own doing, but I can hear the old man of Northern Africa whispering a light tone so we might strain to hear him say, ‘the problem may not be of your doing, but the solution lies only in you’.

James C. Collier


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