Two cents worth: on the benefit of the doubt

Comedian D. L. Hughley said on his radio talk show recently that “the benefit of the doubt” was definitely racist.  His crew on the show laughed, as did myself and many other Americans, similarly situated.  We laughed because we didn’t want to cry.  The fact is that the benefit of the doubt i.e. innocent until proven guilty seldom, if ever, applies to African Americans.  Here’s my two cents worth on it.

Just looked what happened in Texas on September 6, 2018. A 26- year-old, black man, alone in his apartment after work was shot to death by an off duty female white police officer, who thought he was in her apartment.  The victim, Botham Jean had just text his sister about his plans to chill for the evening and catch a football game on television.  He lived on the fourth floor, the cop officer Amber R. Guyger, 30, lived directly below him.  Somehow, she got off the elevator on the wrong floor, went in through and open door and fired her service weapon twice, striking him once in the torso. He died later at the hospital: tried, sentenced and convicted by a cop’s fear.

So it should be no surprise to anyone that African Americans know very little about the benefit of the doubt.  There are more cases like this than I have space to write about. You know there’s the infamous Central Park Five.  Back in 1989 five young black men were wrongfully convicted of raping a woman jogging in New York City.   Then real estate baron, Donald Trump, led the charge condemning the boys, even signing full-page newspaper advertisements implicitly calling for the boys to be put to death. Not surprisingly, all five of the boys were found guilty, based on circumstantial evidence alone: no eye witnesses; no DNA, just confessions of juveniles after many hours of questioning without their parents. They were sentenced to jail terms, ranging from five to 10 years and five to 15.  (Note: the oldest of these boys was tried as an adult, yet was under 18 just like the nominee for SCOTUS.)

Then in 2002, a serial rapist and murderer, already serving life inside, came  confessed to the Central Park rape. A re-examination of DNA evidence proved it was the convicted rapist alone, whose semen has been found on the victim’s body.  After three years, just before Christmas that year, the convictions against each member of the Central Park Five were vacated by New York’s supreme court.

There were no newspaper ads about that. You know how the benefit of the doubt was not accorded  these guys and they had been wrongfully convicted.  None of that. So please forgive us, when there are credible allegations against a nominee for the Supreme Court, when a victim gives a gut wrenching first hand account, and it is ignored, for thinking that the benefit of the doubt must be a part of a privilege we are not afforded as citizens.

Maybe we should be glad Kavanaugh got it.. One thing for sure is that we should pray and hope that from this day forward, black folks, red folks, brown folks, immigrants, LGBTQ and others will all get to know what it’s like to be innocent until proven, beyond the shadow of a doubt, to be guilty.  What scares us the most are the words of the poet, Langston Hughes, “America, never was America to me.”

 

Give the Devil His Due

Like the President or hate him, he is a Master of stealing headlines, leading the broadcast and by any means necessary spinning the news to his liking.  The headlines today should have been dominated by the fact that a district in Philadelphia, that the President won by more than 20 points in 2016, was too close to call, but leaning democratic.  This despite  the fact that both the President and Vice President went and campaigned in person for the Republican incumbent, or dude sitting in the seat.

When it became clear on Tuesday that the Democrats might pull off an upset, with polls showing a slight lead, what does the President do? Pull a rabbit out of his hat? Yes, in a manner of speaking.  He did something he had been hinting at for months, if you paid attention and fired the Secretary of State. How’s that for grabbing the lead? Rex Tillerson, former head of Exxon, could have been dismissed at anytime, since there were numerous instances of their statements downright contradicting each other like when Tillerson tried to play down the President’s intent to build a real wall across the Southern border, engage North Korea and agree that Russia interfered with the 2016 elections.  And let’s not forget that Tillerson allegedly called the President a moron, last October.

So firing him by a Tweet, while Tillerson was flying back from meetings in Africa was guaranteed to dominate the news cycle.  All the talking heads could question and analyze what it meant that he didn’t even call him in person, that subsequently Tillerson’s media person was canned and that the world would be confused with upcoming talks expected with North Korea.  But let’s face it, those headlines and questions are far better than a constant pounding about how the Republicans could lose a seat in an areas the President had won by nearly 20 points and the incumbent had run twice, unopposed.

This feat of media mastery is only surpassed by the President changing the channel from Stormy Weathers suing to get out of a Non-disclosure agreement by announcing direct talks with North Korea.  The South Koreans had only expected to put the idea on the table as an option, knowing there would be pre-conditions like stop nuclear testing, but given the non-ending news cycle on Weathers, Trump jumped on the chance to change the topic.  He did.  Weathers and her antics were lost in the historic first of meeting with North Korea face-to-face, a move suggested by President Obama. Trump telling the media, “I hope you give me credit.”

I agree, let’s give him credit. When it comes to using WMD, weapons of mass distraction, dominating the media’s coverage and changing the subject, this President is in a class by himself.  So let’s give the devil his due; the President is a master at playing the media, like a harp from hell.

And a little child shall lead them

It should not come as a surprise that sometimes to get something done, the Lord has to leave the elders wandering in the wilderness and go on to the “Joshua generation”.  The students, who are survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Highschool massacre in Parkland, Florida, decided to turn their tragedy into a message.  Using social media, with Twitter hashtags such as #NeverAgain and #Enough they are planning many events including a March 14 event in Washington.

Reaction to these passionate, articulate, injured and hopeful kids at minimum should be sympathetic, if not empathetic, regardless of your politics. But, instead opponents, particularly it seems Republicans, like former Savannah Congressman are concerned these students are being used by left-wing anti-gun movement radicals. He wants to know whose financing the kids. Laughable. We, U.S. citizens can get info on whose contributing to political action committees and how much, which is impacting everything from immigration to women’s rights, but if someone is supporting kids who don’t want to live through another machine gun massacre, we need full disclosure.

Come on critics, walk a mile in these kids shoes.  Forget the mile,  just walk across the campus with them.  Think about the hours these kids had to hide, texting their loved ones good-bye in some cases, and scared for their lives, while a lone gunman terrorized them and then just mingled in and walked out with the crowd.

There may be opportunists seeking to jump on the kids band wagon. They may be receiving funding, although as middle class teenagers, just taking the allowance for video games and sneakers could buy them several bus tickets and hotel accommodations. Plus with the advent of such things as Air Bnb and students’ naturally tendency to bunk in with each other and share, their being able to manage trips to the state’s capital.

I don’t know why anyone would think it would be impossible for the most impacted by the tragedy to not take the lead.  We have seen this before.  Students took the lead against denial of citizenship rights to Blacks in the South.  It was college students and then children, marching on Bloody Sunday and the many marches, which followed that aroused the sensitivity of this nation.  It was students, who ended an unpopular war in Vietnam.

Yes these students are younger, but the information age, means kids have access to more information sooner; even a kindergartener can download games and buy things on a cell phone.  My dad used to call them, the push button generation, if there’s a button they can push it.  Their gift of preference for birthdays and holidays are gift cards, some from specific places, most often cash cards from banks or American Express.

Our kids have the money, the access and in this case the interest and the time. As any parent, whose tried to put off getting a family pet knows, the next generation can be very single-minded and determined.  So our failure to act, has force the next generation to rise up, just as it says in Isaiah 11:6…and a little child shall lead them.

We grownups need to get on board the Freedom train and support the kids. They are clear-minded, focused, and they are not going to let anyone turn them around. We need to think about what we do and say, remember its your future and the planet’s you could be taking away.  So forget trying to lick them; join them. Salute!

 

 

 

 

Diplomatically Speaking

Last Saturday (November 12, 2016), the American Medical Association, AMA honored Dr. Omalu with its Distinguished Service Award.  The award is a well-deserved honor, and probably long overdue, for a man, who despite being denigrated, maintained his professionalism and spoke truth to power.  There’s a lesson here for all of us, moving forward into a new political era.

Dr. Bennet I. Omalu, MD, MBA, MPH, was working as a forensic neuropathologist in Pittsburgh, when he conducted postmortem examinations of former NFL offensive lineman Mike Webster’s brain. He spotted what would become the hallmarks of CTE, a chronic traumatic encephalopathy, caused by repetitive brain trauma, resulting in lots of bad plague in the brain and leading to a new type of dementia. Omalu published this case in 2005; and subsequently, identified CTE in the postmortem examinations of many other former NFL players.

dr-omalu

If you saw Will Smith’s movie, Concussion, or heard about it, or think about it for two seconds, you’ll realize the National Football League, NFL did not welcome this information.  Remember, the witch singing in, The Wiz, “don’t nobody bring me, no bad news.”  Yet, Omalu even when faced, with concerted efforts:  to discredit him and his research, verbal insults and abuse, pressure on his firm to let him go, and even death threats, stayed the course.

Today, because of Omalu, CTE is widely recognized as a health risk in millions of patients with histories of repetitive brain trauma, including military veterans. Dr. Omalu knew he had to fight for those who needed help and didn’t know it and those who could no longer fight for themselves.  He protested by working harder to develop a preponderance of substantive evidence that was undeniable. Even in the face of overwhelming opposition, and having to confront his own fear, Dr. Omalu persisted.  He finally overcame both ignorance and resistance and earned being honored.

Omalu is not an isolated example of diplomatically speaking.  Think about Nathan, a prophet in the Bible’s Old Testament.  Nathan had the thankless task of having to tell King David that his affair with Bathsheba made him both an adulterer and a murderer. Like Omalu, Nathan’s position was absolutely and morally correct; but he needed a strategy for how to talk and be heard. Nathan knew he had to tread softly, when facing someone, who had unlimited power, privilege and authority, plus a huge ego.

nathan-confronting-david

So, in 2 Samuel:12, Nathan chose to tell David a story, which was too compelling for the King to ignore. As he listened, his eyes were opened to see the hurt, and his heart to feel the pain. He not only sympathized; he empathized.

The situation angered the King, and yet blinded, by his own privilege and circle of enablers, David was unwilling or unable to recognize his own faults or sins. Then, Nathan held up a mirror.

The moral from both these stories is that even when unwelcomed, diplomatically speaking, could prick the bubble of indifference.  Equally important, being diplomatic is a way to use your platform, and appeal to the opposition’s humanity; ultimately influencing, possibly changing their viewpoint.

Stay in the Game

            Our son threw the bat across the field.  My husband rushed down the bleachers to grab him.  By this time, our little boy was having a full temper tantrum. He folded his arms, refused to walk toward the opposing team, called them every ugly name he knew, while pulling his teammates in the opposite direction.  Just as he was about to throw the first punch, my husband grabbed our five-year-old and spun him around.

By the time I joined the duo, tears were streaming down his face, he kept saying “It isn’t fair; I quit.”  My husband asked, “why are you quitting?” He shrugged and said, “they won.”

My husband sat down on the curb, put our son in his lap and explained, “they won today, because they played better, and wanted it more.”  Our son asked, “Dad, can we beat them?”

“Yes you can,” my husband said.

Our son ran to the middle of the field, joining his team as they slapped hands with the opposing team.  When he came back to us, he smiled, “Next time, we’ll win.”

Tuesday’s election reminded me of our child’s heartbreak, over twenty years ago. We urged him then to be a good sport, and keep on playing. In that spirit, the day after the election, I called my friend, Jim, a white Republican male and offered congratulations. Jim voted twice against President Obama, I voted for him. Still, we haven’t’ let what divides us become stronger than what unites us.

During our sixteen-year relationship, we’ve debated politics, without personal insults. We’ve learned that, neither of us is extremely conservative or liberal, we’re middle-of-the-road. We disagree on which party will best achieve our shared values.  But our engagement, reminds the other, although Jim leans to the starboard (right), and I lean to the port side (left), ultimately, we’re in the same boat, and together will sink or float.

That’s how the losing side achieves what our son and his teammates did that next season, win the championship game.

 

 

The Elephant in the Room

elephant vs donkeyCould it be that the Hillary Hatred is more about gender than emails? It just seems to me, no pun intended, that Hillary’s gender is the elephant in the room.  It’s there everyone sees it, but no one discusses it.  Her opponent is not only less qualified, he is as the President said recently,” totally unqualified and ill-prepared.” His resume against hers would be laughable, even in a mood of “get rid of the bums.”  See we already know when people say that they mean get rid of the bums from another state, not ours.

How else can you explain that a man who has been twice divorced, swears like a sailor and utters more bigoted things than a Klan member on steroids is even considered worthy to be on the same ballot? In any previous election just one of the Republican nominee’s gaffes and derogatory statements would have been enough to drum him out the race, without the instantaneous echo of Twitter.  What gives him a bullet-proof vest against the bullets and arrows that come up against him readily?  Is it a special teflon coating?  Or is it just the subliminal messaging of, “boys will be boys.”

You ask where does the elephant sit, and the answer is:  anywhere it wants.  That’s because it’s an elephant and who is going to stop it.  In this case, that’s how the media is treating the Republican flag bearer:  he is the nominee and he has certain rights, privileges protections and immunities that come with the titles: male and nominee.  True enough, but that still doesn’t explain why someone hasn’t washed his mouth out with soap.

Could it be that somewhere lurking in the hearts of men, and some women, is a fear and mistrust of a woman’s leadership that is so deep and resentful that it is too embarrassed to face itself?  Instead, it comes out in other ways with words like “weak, lying and devil.”

Hillary’s run for President is historic.  We’ve come a long way.  But, that doesn’t mean there aren’t those who like Shakespeare’s Hamlet, would “rather bear the ills we have than fly to those we know not of.”  In other words, there have been 44 men, so we know about men, but what about a woman?

Yes she’s Superwoman, like Sidney Poitier’s character in “Guess Whose Coming to Dinner,” far above reproach on the resume.  So now its all vague feelings about not liking her as a person, when 99% of us don’t know her personally.  Only in America.  We’ve paid lip service to equality for women for generations, now we get to vote on it. Can’t wait to see the numbers roll in.

 

 

 

Obama Girls should be saluted; not criticized

The folks who are spending their time sounding off about the Obama girls, all dressed up for the State dinner with the Canadian Prime Minister are making what Shakespeare called, “Much Ado about nothing.”  Here we have two smart, stylish teenagers, who chose dresses that were tasteful and stylish to attend a formal event with their parents.  As the mother of a teenage daughter, who I put in a debutante program, let me tell you, getting Generation X and Millennials in a formal dress, was  and is no easy task.

In eight years, I never read a piece questioning the cost of Laura Bush or her daughters’ dresses.  Those girls has some “wilding out” incidents, involving too much alcohol, but were excused and allowed to grow up, sheltered by their parents.  Now the Obama’s daughters have come of age and are getting to have one-of-a-kind memories, before they leave the White House.

So what’s the issue, that contrary to the erroneous information tweeted, the First Lady’s budget pays for their clothing.  Moreover, as I know from working at Red Book Magazine in New York, if you borrow clothing for an event i.e. photo shoot, when you’re done, you take it back.  That’s what the Obama family has to do when they borrow. And, if its donated it goes to the first lady Museum.  Truth is I could use a museum for some of these bridesmaid dresses, I will never wear again, but I digress.

These girls are good students, respectful, and have no piercings or tattoos or other markings, (don’t get me wrong those could be tasteful), but the point is, these girls are still in the age of innocence.  They are just getting their feet wet in the real world.  Let’s give them a break. It has to be hard enough to listen to those most vile, ignorant and hateful speech about your Dad and Mom, on a daily basis, without being attacked for looking good in a dress.

Remember they are still young, let them grow up without all this bullying.