Monday, June 29, 2009

Acting White: Supreme Court New Haven Firefighting Decision

Yes, the Supreme Court got it right with respect to the New Haven firefighters. But let us be clear – Sotomayor, who fancies her own seat up yonder, did not do her judicial job when she upheld, minus an explanation or her signature, the City’s position on appeal. For all her tough up-from-the-Bronx reputation, she caved and made the old white guys make the final call. She may counter, quietly, that she almost executed a shrewd political move, but she got called out by her mentor, appellate judge Jose Cabranes. I guess that is what good mentors do, bust your ass when you slack, right out there in public for everyone, who cares, to see. She'll be OK.

The logic of the dissenting justices in the case shows us just how far we have to go, when they put forth the results of the test as evidence for the City, as defendant, even though reviews found no testing bias. Justice Ginsburg said the court should have assessed "the starkly disparate results" of the exams against the backdrop of historical and ongoing inequality in the New Haven fire department. So the question remains for America, just how long should blacks be given points simply for their skin color? If Rev. King were here today, I seriously doubt he could square Ginsberg’s attitude with his hope that we be judged, over 40 years later, on the content of our character alone.

See related post (here).

James C. Collier


Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Michael Jackson: 1958-2009

Pain, before it turned upon itself.

James C. Collier


Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

Monday, June 22, 2009

Acting White: Apologizing For Slavery

Once again, slavery and reparations talk is in the air. Last week the US Senate formally passed a resolution apologizing for the enslavement and segregation of Africans in America. The resolution now moves to consideration in the House, but not without controversy. PC apologies are one thing, cash payment for the past is quite the other.

In order to get the votes for the apology, Senate proponents, including Tom Harkin (Iowa), had to include a disclaimer for the payment of reparations to the ancestors of slaves or former slaves. There is reasonable concern that this resolution might become part of the on-going call for reparations by some black politicians and groups.

The thing that continues to bite me in this debate is how black proponents insist on the specious, non-hunting, argument that the request and payment to blacks is analogous to payments made to Native Americans and WWII Japanese Internees (here). Yes, all three treatments were abominable, but the abuse of Native peoples and Japanese citizens violated US laws on the books at the time, and this was not true of slavery.

Enduring Native American organizations (tribes) were paid reparations because the US government violated signed treaties, back by the laws of the day. Japanese-American citizens were denied their rights, including loss of employment and properties, and were forced into internment camps against their will. Slaves, alternately, were captured, sold, transported and forced into slave labor, supported by the laws of the day. To many this difference seems trivial, but the evolution of the rule of law represents a time line that cannot be revised at will.

When a right is granted and ignored, our laws provide for remedy. At the time of the Atlantic slave trade countries were just beginning to consider that slavery was inhumane, to the point of making it illegal, and the US trailed this awakening. The call for reparations seems unperturbed by the revisionist thinking required in the light of legal enactments of the time. It would be more reasonable to argue that freed slaves were damaged by the subsequent denial of full rights provided for at the time of the emancipation proclamation, up to the time when Jim Crow statutes were enacted. And then there is the statute of limitations with which to contend.

Do not expect this wrenching to go away any time soon.

James C. Collier


Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Acting White: Personal Responsibility Aside and Health Care

This morning I hauled my sleepy butt out of bed at 5:15am for a 6:00am spin class, “Terrible Thursday”. Why? Take your pick, weight management, cardio-endurance, endorphins - whatever. It really does not matter; I just do it four times a week, come hell or high-water.

The exact plea that lent the title of this post was, “But personal responsibility aside, absence of adequate health care is crucial.” The words came from Mary Frances Berry, in an article for Essence Magazine entitled “What Obama’s Health Care Reform Means for Black America” (here). Who would argue that adequate health care is not crucial? Only a calloused idiot, which I believe I’m not. On the other hand, I wonder how personal responsibility can exist as an ‘aside’ in the discussion.

It seems to me that responsibility is the heart of the health care issue. Our entire health care system, including all its woes, is predicated upon people abdicating their personal responsibility to their health. If it taste good, eat it. To her credit, Professor Berry acknowledges in her argument that blacks exercise less than whites, seek out grease, starch, and sugary foods even when income makes this avoidable. She goes on to talk about how blacks suffer hypertension, strokes, and other maladies at disproportionate rates to whites. But in between her cause and effect offering, Berry slips in the personal responsibility aside escape-clause. Not so fast professor!

Me thinks that the cart has been placed ahead of the horse. I contend that a health care system that demands that people are their own first and best line of offense in taking healthy care of themselves would cost nickels and dimes against today’s borrowed dollars. The prevalent emergency room treatment Berry speaks of, among the under/uninsured, is the absolute most expensive/least effective way to delivery health care. Astonishing ER expense is just the logical end-point of a health behavior mentality/system wholly derailed.

We treat our bodies like crap from the earliest age and then look for the government to deliver a humane and affordable, or free, ‘get out of bad-health jail’ solution. Slight-of-hand arguments, like Professor Berry’s, put willing politicians and our empty pocketbooks on the bailout hook. This can’t go on! There is no reform for a system that is morally, ethically, scientifically, and economically bankrupt. It must be dismantled and rebuilt. We are now trying to reform a system that spends hundreds of billions of dollars each year searching for and delivering responses for avoidable ailments. As a start, smart people, like Berry, should begin by not using those words ‘personal responsibility aside’.

James C. Collier


Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Acting White: Gorilla Comment Aimed At Michelle Obama

I missed the war of words, this past weekend, over the South Carolina Republican Rusty DePass comment that an escaped gorilla was, " of Michelle's ancestors -- probably harmless." My only retort is to show my version of our elegant and beautiful first lady. And good old Rusty can KMA!

Here is the CNN story (below), FYI.

James C. Collier


Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

Friday, June 12, 2009


I clipped this info from the site, because facts are so much more meaningful than slogans. Putting the words STOP AIDS over a black hand would have been more inclusive and less Spike Lee-ish, but that's a small nit. Moving on, if the push is about black people taking responsibility for the behaviors that make AIDS a leading killer, let's do it. But a word to the wise, stopping AIDS, like violence, will require America to approach the problem differently. The behavior systems in America's 'urban-islands' more closely resemble those of places like Lagos, Nigeria, Africa's most advanced industrial city, rather than the white-majority melting pots of the US. This is the simple answer of why earlier US programs have, so far, failed the black demographic, while capturing others. They do not meet the issues of this audience head-on. Talking about it is the place to start. I'm in.



In 2005, the rate of AIDS diagnoses in black adults and adolescents was 10 times the rate for whites and nearly
three times the rate for Hispanics.

In 2004, African Americans were disproportionately affected by HIV infection, accounting for 55 percent of all
HIV infections reported among people ages 13–24.

Of the estimated 18,849 people under the age of 25 whose diagnosis of HIV/AIDS was made during 2001–2004 in the 33 states with HIV reporting, 11,554 (61 percent) were black.

In 2007, nearly 20 percent of people infected with HIV residing in the District of Columbia were between the age 13-29 at the time of their diagnosis.

In Georgia, the rate of adult/adolescent HIV/AIDS cases was 81.2 per 100,000 for African-Americans in 2005 and 8.7 per 100,000 for whites.

Of the 68 U.S. children (younger than 13 years of age) who had a new AIDS diagnosis in 2005, 46 were black.

Of the estimated 141 infants perinatally infected with HIV in 2005, 91 or 65 percent were black.


One in 30 black women will be diagnosed with HIV at some point in their lifetime.

The rate of AIDS diagnoses for black women was nearly 23 times the rate for white women in 2005.

AIDS was the leading cause of death in 2006 for black women 25 to 34.

Of the 126,964 women living with HIV/AIDS in 2005, 64 percent were black, 19 percent were white, 15 percent were Hispanic, one percent were Asian or Pacific Islander, and less than one percent were American Indian or Alaskan Native.

Of 40,608 AIDS diagnoses in the 50 states and the District of Columbia for 2005, 10,774 (26 percent) were women.


One in 16 black men will be diagnosed with HIV at some point in their lifetime.

The rate of AIDS diagnoses for black men was eight times the rate for white men in 2005.

AIDS was the second leading cause of death in 2006 for black men ages 35 to 44.

Of the Washington, D.C., residents living with HIV/AIDS in 2008, 76.3 percent were black and 71.7 percent were male.

The rate of adult/adolescent AIDS cases for African-American males (118.7 per 100,000) was eight times that of white males (14 per 100,000) in Georgia in 2005.


The total lifetime cost of illness for Americans newly diagnosed with HIV in 2002 is approximately $36.4 billion.

While whites incur more direct medical costs than blacks for HIV treatment, blacks suffer greater financial damage from loss of productivity.

In 2007, over half of the 900,000 Americans living with HIV died from the virus.

HIV/AIDS is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.

The U.S. Agency for International Development for funding HIV/AIDS in the region is expected to increase its funds to $30 billion by 2010.

Sources: District of Columbia Department of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The Georgia Department of Community Health Office and Health Improvement, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Congressional Research Service Report, Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes (JAIDS)

James C. Collier


Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Acting White: What Black HS Grads, Near-Grads and DNG’s* Need

My daughter graduates from high school (HS) this week. Also, I have spent the past few months in a discussion group with some minority urban (mostly black) HS young adults. Some of these kids will continue their education, too many will not. My concern for them is no different than that for my girl. Are they learning, or have they learned, what they need to develop into happy, productive adults? Sadly, for most, the answer is no. They are not failures, but they have defintely been failed.

*DNG: Did not graduate.

So what is it that they did not learn? This is the same character my first-born would say I have been drumming into her for the last eighteen years - the importance of timeliness, preparation, reasoning, empathy, perseverance, and diligence. Historical bigotries notwithstanding, it is no accident that what black kids are missing is aligned with that which has also kept their historical ethnic geographies, in Africa, at bay, even as off-continent societies have accelerated to positions of dominance.

It is this reduced historical adherence to advancing behavior which holds black kids back, in and out of the face of bigotry. I think the schools need to start explicitly pursuing these soft-gaps prevalent in certain communities, the same way we teach foundations in math and reading. How about Timeliness 101, Preparation 102, Critical Thinking For Beginners 103, etc. for establishing the basis for learning, graduating and contributing to society in positive ways?

This may seem way too simple, or like a cultural intrusion, but I can guarantee that the kids I have met are starving to unlock the ‘secrets’ to success, but very few are getting credible instruction about behaviors that make a difference, like good grammar. In the meantime, I will keep drumming these behaviors into my own kids, and any others that care to wonder where they will land.

Happy graduation to those who made it! Now get back to the books.

James C. Collier


Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

Friday, June 05, 2009

David Carradine: 1936 - 2009

Kung Fu's Kwai Chang Caine ranked right up there with Star Trek's Mr. Spock and Bruce Lee, when it comes to my boyhood idols. David Carradine's passing reminds me of that old martial arts pun, 'walk softly and carry a big kick'. RIP grasshopper.

Update: The objective of this post is to simply (and artistically) mark the death of a man, both influential and imperfect to this blogger, by his nature. It is not a commentary, ignorant or otherwise, on the aggregate circumstances of his life, career, or death.

James C. Collier


Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Acting White: Laotians Find Brit Orobator Guilty

In May, I wrote (here) about Samantha Orobator, Nigerian-born Brit who had been sitting eight (8) months in a Laotian prison, on heroin smuggling charges. The length of her pre-trial detention, without benefit of legal counsel, and subsequent pregnancy during said detention were both cause for concern that she was not being treated fairly, under the most basic practice of jurisprudence.

As of today, Ms. Orobator has plead guilty. She was sentenced to life in prison, rather than the mandatory firing-squad, for her particular crime, specifically because she is pregnant. There is speculation, accompanying family denials of her rape in prison, that Ms. Orobator arranged her insemination while in custody awaiting trial, in order to spare her own life under the government’s pregnancy-exception to capital punishment.

I would not be surprised if the length of her pre-trial detention was facilitated by a hope on the part of authorities that she would avail herself of this escape route, thereby saving them the world-scrutiny and disdain for executing a gullible, ignorant woman. In any event, it seems that she was indeed guilty of smuggling and deserving of whatever the punishment of the land.

What remains is whether Ms. Orobator will be allowed to serve her sentence in Britain or Laos, who have an exchange agreement. In both venues there is the possibility of parole, but in the case of Laos, her chances of surviving, under notorious prison conditions, are sketchy. As a twist, circuitous British law may have her serving more time at home, than in Laos. Of course, there is still no question that prisons in the UK are more desirable, even if the stay is longer.

I hope young people everywhere take a lesson from this dreadful situation, which appears to be one of her own doing, having little to do with race, except that Nigerians seem drawn to this particular illegal trade in this country (here).

James C. Collier


Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

Monday, June 01, 2009

Acting White: Lights, Camera! Wise Latina

"I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion [as a judge] than a white male who hasn't lived that life".
Sonia Sotomayor (Supreme Court Nominee)

I have no doubt that Judge Sotomayor will make it onto the court, and I do not think this is a bad thing. She is very very smart, unlike some others before her, and a life time appointment tends to coax out the gifted person encased in expedient ambition.

In an earlier post I questioned Sotomayor's no-look decision on the New Haven firefighters, although I now believe she saw it as a no-win situation. Had she sided with the white firefighters, she would have kissed any future high court nomination goodbye. If she wrote an opinion, as is customary, telling why she sided with the City, she would have had to lay out some questionable constitutional footwork, again damning her chance of the high court. By passing the case along an appeal path, in silence, she replaced the no-win with a nolo. The call-out heat from appellate Judge Jose Cabranes was the smallest price to pay.

As for the 'wise Latina' quote, I thought she was saying that her unique experiences, nay hardships, provided a competitive advantage to making good decisions vis-a-vis your run-of-the-mill white guy, who's only lived on a paved street. This may be crude, but it says more about her turning adversity into opportunity, than it does about today's white male. Of course, nothing precludes a white guy, on hard times, from learning a useful thing or two as well.

Bright lights do bring, crack she will not!

James C. Collier

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,