Wednesday, September 2, 2015

POSTED: Monday, March 16, 2015, 1:23 PM
Marchers protested outside the Dallas home of a University of Oklahoma student caught on video leading a racist chant on his fraternity's bus. (Nathan Hunsinger / Dallas Morning News)

When I was in college a white fraternity had a black dog that students, both black and white, told me was called the n-word. I can attest to the dog’s existence – it was a Labrador retriever, as I recall; but I never heard anyone call it by any name in my presence. That in itself was unusual enough to make me wonder. But there were other things about the fraternity that also seemed to make the allegation believable. For one thing, all of the other frats among the handful we had on our small Midwestern campus had at least one black member, but not this one.

Then there was the brawl. Well, not really a brawl; maybe fracas is a better term for the pushing and shoving that broke out during an intramural softball game between this fraternity and our black student union. I was playing catcher, a position I typically disdain, when a guy on third came barreling down trying to score. My recollection is this was after a groundout at first and I didn’t notice until he was about to run into me, which he did. We both got up tussling. The benches cleared. But no actual punches occurred before the umpires settled us down.

Back then, the incident cemented in my mind that the fraternity was racist. Years later, I’m not so sure of my assessment of the whole fraternity, but I do believe some of its members were prejudiced. Were there enough racists among them to make a video like the one of Sigma Alpha Epsilon members seen chanting on a bus: “There will never be a n— SAE”? Maybe. But that softball game was 40 years ago, which means any chanting by that frat would have been more understandable than what happened last week at the University of Oklahoma. For me, the SAE video further confirmed that racism will be with us for several more generations.

Harold Jackson @ 1:23 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Monday, March 9, 2015, 2:42 PM
President Obama speaks at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala. on March 7. (Reuters)

I wasn’t certain that President Obama would even go to Selma, Ala., to commemorate the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday,” and now some people are saying his speech there Saturday was his greatest ever as president. If that’s true, it may be because Obama has made very few memorable speeches as president. Many consider his best speech to be the keynote address he made as an Illinois state senator at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. That’s when Obama declared, “There is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America. There is not a black America and a white America and Latino America and Asian America — there's the United States of America.”

Others say Obama’s best speech was the 2008 address on race relations he made in Philadelphia as a U.S. senator running for president. He said: “I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas. I was raised with the help of a white grandfather who survived a Depression to serve in Patton's Army during World War II and a white grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line at Fort Leavenworth while he was overseas. I've gone to some of the best schools in America and lived in one of the world's poorest nations. I am married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slave-owners -- an inheritance we pass on to our two precious daughters. I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.”

I wasn’t certain that Obama would go to Selma because there have been times when I thought he was trying to avoid being seen as a “black president,” as opposed to being “a president who happened to be black.” Some of Obama’s past statements concerning race relations seemed toned down to me so he wouldn’t come across as “too black.” I attributed that both to Obama’s trying to maintain his mass appeal as a politician and to the fact that his experience growing up in Hawaii and Indonesia wasn’t the same as mine. I saw racism up close growing up in Alabama in the 1950s and ‘60s. Obama didn’t have the same experiences. But his Selma speech embodied all the feelings of someone who did.

Harold Jackson @ 2:42 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Tuesday, February 24, 2015, 10:37 AM
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani

Here’s what I think happened: Rudy Giuliani walked into that eat-and-greet dinner for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker -- a dinner he wasn’t originally invited to -- saw all the big-money executives and conservative media people inside that trendy New York restaurant checking out the potential presidential candidate, and decided he wanted them to pay attention to him instead. So in a fit of jealousy, he threw a hunk of red meat at the diners, saying something so explosive it would make national news. That it was a lie did not dampen Giuliani’s fervor.

“I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America,” said Giuliani. “He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.”

It’s hard to believe that anyone would put up with the attacks on his character that Obama has had to take from Giuliani and others if he didn’t love his country. Giuliani’s remark is even more appalling when you consider what it suggests about Obama’s maternal grandparents, who helped raise him. During World War II, Stanley Dunham served his country as a G.I. in Europe while his wife Madelyn worked on a bomber assembly line back in Wichita. Isn’t it likely they taught a young Obama a thing or two about love of country?

Harold Jackson @ 10:37 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Wednesday, February 4, 2015, 10:53 AM
A Northridge, Calif., pediatrician speaks to a mother whose 18-month-old child has just been given the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine. (AP Photo / Damian Dovarganes)

The governor of New Jersey’s comments about the current measles outbreak has gotten a lot of attention, but it is Pennsylvania that has more to fear from the childhood disease that can be fatal. The Keystone State ranks among the last in the nation in its percentage of kindergarten-age children who have been vaccinated, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

With only 85 percent of its kindergarten-age children immunized against measles, mumps, and rubella, Pennsylvania is more susceptible to those childhood diseases, along with Kansas, 87 percent; Arkansas, 86 percent; and Colorado, 82 percent.

According to the CDC, 97 percent of New Jersey kindergartners have had the MMR vaccination. Maybe that’s why Christie felt free to play politics in earlier suggesting it was fine for parents not to have their children vaccinated. He has since backed off that position in acknowledging the risk to public safety. But another Republican presidential contender, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, has not.

Harold Jackson @ 10:53 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Tuesday, January 27, 2015, 12:04 PM
Two Holocaust survivors returned to the Auschwitz Nazi death camp in Poland for a commemoration of their liberation 70 years ago . (AP Photo / Alik Keplicz)

Like “Selma,” a theatrical release that recreates the events leading up to a seminal event in the American civil rights movement, people who are either too young to know much about it, or old enough to have put it out of their minds, should see the HBO documentary “Night Will Fall,” which includes actual footage of the rescue of Holocaust victims.

The film makes it painfully clear that human beings are capable of the most inconceivable depravities. But worst than the perpetrators of war crimes were the seemingly good people who tried to pretend they were unaware of the godless activities occurring a slingshot away from their bucolic communities in concentration camps like Dachau, Auschwitz, and Buchenwald.

The documentary includes footage from a film called “German Concentration Camps Factual Survey,” which the Allies began making in 1945 but never released after World War II ended. Apparently, the British and Americans decided making the Germans feel more guilt about the millions of emaciated, brutalized bodies discovered in concentration camps would crush their morale at a time when defeated Germany was already being considered a potential ally against the surging Soviet Union.

Harold Jackson @ 12:04 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Monday, January 5, 2015, 2:06 PM
Protesters demonstrated in Philadelphia in September to push fast-food chains to pay their employees at least $15 an hour (AP Photo / Matt Rourke)

It amazes me when I hear near- to above-middle-class earners complain about the push to raise the federal minimum wage, which has stood at $7.25 for almost five years, including during the 2008 recession. These critics look at the $15 an hour that protesting fast-food workers have been asking for and say that’s too much for someone at that level of employment. What they’re really saying is that $15 an hour is getting too close to what they make and does not properly reflect the gap in education and responsibility between them and a – pardon the expression – hamburger flipper.

They’re looking at the issue from the wrong end of the microscope.  It’s not that fast-food workers are asking for too much for what they do. An annual salary of $16,120 isn’t excessive when you consider the price of goods and services in today’s world. A worker with a family earning that amount would need another job if he or she were the sole source of income. A young person earning that amount and trying to go to college would have a hard time keeping up with expenses even if he still lives at home.

It’s not that lower-paid workers are asking for too much; it’s that workers making more are settling for too little. Wages need to be adjusted from the bottom up, with those at the very top income levels – the multimillionaires making dozens of times more than their workers – giving up some cash to compensate. While the federal minimum wage didn’t budge, the average pay of CEOs rose 5.5 percent last year to more than $11 million, according to the Wall Street Journal. Yes, the trickle-down theory can work, if it’s actually applied. Instead, the average Fortune 500 CEO is making 200 times more than his lowest-paid employees.

Harold Jackson @ 2:06 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Monday, January 5, 2015, 1:48 PM
Protestors demonstrated in Philadelphia in September to push fast-food chains to pay their employees at least $15 an hour (AP Photo / Matt Rourke)

It amazes me when I hear near- to above-middle-class earners complain about the push to raise the minimum at the federal level, which has stood at $7.25 for almost five years, including during the 2008 recession. These critics look at the $15 an hour that protesting fast-food workers have been asking for and say that’s too much for someone at that level of employment. What they’re really saying is that $15 an hour is getting too close to what they make and does not properly reflect the gap in education and responsibility between them and a – pardon the expression – hamburger flipper.

They’re looking at the issue from the wrong end of the microscope.  It’s not that fast-food workers are asking for too much for what they do. An annual salary of $16,120 isn’t excessive when you consider the price of goods and services in today’s world. A worker with a family earning that amount would need another job if he or she were the sole source of income. A young person earning that amount and trying to go to college would have a hard time keeping up with expenses even if he still lives at home.

It’s not that lower-paid workers are asking for too much; it’s that workers making more are settling for too little. Wages need to be adjusted from the bottom up, with those at the very top income levels – the multimillionaires making dozens of times more than their workers – giving up some cash to compensate. While the federal minimum wage didn’t budge, the average pay of CEOs rose 5.5 percent last year to more than $11 million, according to the Wall Street Journal. Yes, the trickle-down theory can work, if it’s actually applied. Instead, the average Fortune 500 CEO is making 200 times more than his employees.

Harold Jackson @ 1:48 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Monday, December 15, 2014, 11:01 AM
Protesters confronting police in Ferguson, Mo., last summer. (ROBERT COHEN / St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

I have told friends that my mistrust of the police comes legitimately. I grew up in Birmingham, Ala., during the 1960s, when the city became infamous for the brutal way that civil rights demonstrators were treated by policemen who used snarling dogs and pummeling blasts of water from fire hoses to disperse protesters. A 9-year-old classmate was one of the youngest demonstrators arrested.

Back then, black people saw the police as appendages of a racist judicial system that more often than not protected, rather than prosecuted, whites accused of harming African Americans. Today, many think the same thing about the white police officers in Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island, N.Y., who killed unarmed black men and managed to avoid prosecution.

My family didn't even think about looking to the police for protection after the 16th Street Baptist Church was bombed by racists in 1963, killing four little girls, including an 11-year-old who attended my school. Instead, my father and other black men armed themselves, anticipating more violence.

Harold Jackson @ 11:01 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
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The Inquirer Editorial Board's Say What? opinion blog showcases the work of the editors and writers who produce the newspaper's daily and Sunday opinion pages.

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