Black Crime and the Black Family

Last week’s protests in Jena, La. brought a flood of comments from people who apparently believe that in terms of racial justice, we are no better off now than when Martin Luther King was a boy. I’ve expressed some disagreement with that view while granting that no amount of government intervention will ever wipe out all traces of racism.

For further reading, here are two very well written, well argued pieces–one by a white writer, one by a black–asking whether every problem that plagues African-Americans can be traced to obdurate white racism. Check Orlando Patterson here and Heather MacDonald here.

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VEBA, CHIFF, DWEBNY: Acronyms You Can Use

I’ve always liked acronyms and the challenge of compressing several ideas into one invented “word.”  ‘ Good ‘nyms are not only quicker than reciting the whole string of words, but they serve as memory devices as well; it’s easier to remember SCUBA than “self-contained underwater breathing apparatus.”

So I chuckled when I came across a new (to me) ‘nym in the United Auto Workers mini-strike against General Motors:  VEBA, or  voluntary employee benefit association. In essence, creating a VEBA means that G.M. will no longer have to carry the debt it will owe for employee and retiree health care benefits on its books, which might give it a fighting chance of competing with Toyota and other car makers in the cutthroat global arena.

No sooner had I digested VEBA than I ran across CHIFF, the motto of Cranium, the cool board-game maker whose stuff I only see in Starbucks.CHIFF stands for Clever, High-Quality, Innovative, Friendly and Fun, which sums up what the company hopes to offer customers.

That might be a good exercise for all of us: If you had to create a ‘nym that reflects your philosophy of life, your mission statement, or your company’s ethos, what would it be? Hope it’s not SIABRI (Stuck in a Barely Relevant Industry) or DWEBNY–Doubt We’ll Exist By Next Year, as in “Man, this place is totally DWEBNY.”

Fellow blogger The Fab Sage, who struts his stuff in the Manhattan Mercury, came up with a super ‘nym a few years ago to describe one of his cardinal beliefs: ETSOTTGO, for “easier to stay out than to get out.” Ain’t that the truth?

I came up with BIWISI for “believe it when I see it” and SLAGIAT for “Seemed like a good idea at the time,” which describes far too many of my youthful indiscretions.

 For some time, I’ve been wanting an acronym that would express one of the most common mental phenomena of middle-aged life. Anyone much past 30 often finds himself  lamenting the passing of some place, person, activity or product that served as an emotional placeholder in the memory. When he/she/it has gone, there’s a moment of wistful sadness.

The other day, the lightning bolt of Acronymic Bliss struck.  I happened to remember a book of poems by a writer named, I think,  Leon Stokesbury. It was called The Gradual Drifting Away of All We Once Held Essential, which really captures the feeling I’m talking about.

 Change that title to an acronym and you get  TGDAOAWOHE   (tug-dow-WHOA-e). Usage: “Man, I drove by the first house I ever lived in the other day, and they’d torn the thing down. I really had a moment of TGDAOAWOHE.”

Keep that in mind, and I bet you’ll have one of those TGDAOAWOHE moments in the next few days.

Hispanic Feedback on “The War”

 Re my post on the No-Hispanics controversy around Ken Burns’ great PBS series, “The War”:

 Having seen much of the series so far, I’ve been surprised at how much time has been devoted to the troubling  internment of Japanese-Americans and the racial problems that boiled over in Mobile, Alabama, one of the four towns Burns used as his windows on the war experience. “The War”  certainly hasn’t been a Norman Rockwell postcard painted red, white, and blue; again and again, narrators and participants have pointed out grievous mistakes and fog-of-war disasters that wasted the lives of many Americans and Allied troops.

Still, no four cities Burns could have picked would have represented the entire spectrum of Americans who fought the war–most of whom, due to historical reality, were white. Despite that, some Hispanics remain resentful that their contribution was slighted. Here’s a response I received today from a man identifying himself as “a Hispanic veteran.”

 This is the same story of always.   The nation is presented with the white man as the super hero.   Why?  I don’t know.  What are they afraid of?   I can’t support the idea of my tax dollars  being spent on a PBS documentary that did not represent my race.  BTW, my family, on both sides, have been represented (including now)  in the military since WWII .  You better believe it that Hispanics should have been represented in the so call documentary, we earned it.

Holy Land Trial: Tough Duty for Jurors

Based on several news accounts of the Holy Land Foundation trial going on here in Dallas, I sure don’t see a slam-dunk for the prosecutors as jurors complete four days of deliberation.

The government alleges that the foundation and seven of its organizers illegally sent at least $12 million to the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas. It’s the largest case of its kind to be tried so far.

Similar cases have ended in acquittal, and it’s not hard to see why: these matters are inherently complex, involve ancient enmities between ethnic and religious groups, and require jurors to make decisions that seasoned diplomats have a hard time making.

Did the Holy Land members know their money was being funneled to Hamas through “shell” organizations that essentially laundered the cash, which Hamas used to buy weapons and reward the families of suicide bombers?  Or did they believe it was all going to buy schoolbooks and medical care?  That’s got to be a tough and tangled question.

There are seven attorneys involved for the defense, and the jury’s instructions from the judge ran to more than an hour. The judge tried to read the instructions, but his voice gave out and an assistant had to finish. The judge also replaced a juror with an alternate yesterday, but didn’t reveal his reason  for doing so.

I hope the government made its case, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the jury hopelessly split.  As I’ve noted before, we need ways of fighting terror with lawbooks and money trails rather than bombs and guns. But if they can’t convince juries beyond a reasonable doubt,  it’s not going to happen.

Little Rock 9: Great Role Models for All

If you have about 15 minutes, watch this great PBS discussion with seven of the famous Little Rock 9 who integrated the schools 50 years ago.

The transcript is there, and it’s good, but  seeing and hearing these folks will make you admire them even more. Intelligent, self-possessed, dignified. . . these are the people we should be looking up to whether we’re  black, white, or brown.  

The only thing missing from the interview, for me, was this: I wish she had asked them what they think of so many of the reigning black stereotypes today–the thug rapper, the pimp hustler, the semi-literate athlete, the  kids who won’t read or use proper English lest they be accused of “acting white.” 

 I plan to show this to my daughter (we’re white) so she will see that the sleaze-rappers on the radio do not represent all blacks any more than the backward cretins who support David Duke represent all whites.

 The Little Rock 9 realized that intelligence and learning are the keys to freedom, and they all created exciting, rewarding lives for themselves. I can’t recommend this interview highly enough, so check it out here. (You may need to enable a video player, but that just takes a moment.)

“The War” and This War: How You Can Help

Two nights of watching Ken Burns’ fine series “The War” has left me with more thoughts and impressions than I have time to discuss now, but here are a few:

*I think this is the country’s last big farewell to the World War II generation. In a few more years there just won’t be that many of them around, as I noted in this NPR/KERA commentary last Memorial Day. By the 70th anniversary of D-Day in June 2014, their numbers will be small indeed.  If you know a WW II vet you want to thank, don’t put it off.

*I’m sure everyone has been struck all over again at the universality of World War II. No matter who you were, the war changed your life. You were in it even if you never left the country and never heard a shot fired. It affected what you did for a living, what you could buy, where you could go, when you could go there, and where you lived in many cases.

Many have contrasted that all-enveloping experience of our parents and grandparents with today’s war, in which 100% of the burden is borne by about .00002 percent of the population.  I was as disappointed as anyone when President Bush failed to galvanize the desire so many felt to do something, anything to help the country in the days after Sept. 11. An enormous reservoir of patriotic feeling and good will was there to draw upon, and he failed to do it.

 But after we’ve given the President  all the criticism he deserves on that score, we have to say: “OK. He didn’t step up. Does that absolve me of all responsibility? If I’m bothered by the unequal sharing of the burden in this war, isn’t there anything I can do besides wait for directions from Washington?” (A bad idea in any case.)

Answer: Yes. If you haven’t seen any volunteer/helping opportunities in your newspaper or heard about any at a hospital or  school or church, go on the Web and search. You’ll find something in about ten minutes. Here’s just one link to about 25 ways to help.

By the way, this has nothing to do with whether you’re for or against the war, or whether you believe we should double troop strength tomorrow or bring everyone home this weekend. We need to acknowledge our solidarity with the people who have borne the terrible brunt of this war. Long after Bush has faded away, they’ll need and deserve our help.

Oh, one other thing: Now that the New York Times has dropped its “Times Select” paywall, check out the excellent series “Home Fires” written by several returning Iraq veterans. Most of us don’t even know anyone who has served; this series is a way of closing that gap. Find it here and scroll down for more stories.

“Bucket List” Preview: What’s On Your List?

The fever is building for the upcoming  Jack Nicholson-Morgan Freeman flick The Bucket List. There’s a YouTube preview here  if you watch to catch it. Based on this short clip, we’re talking Number One with a solid-gold bullet.

 I’m feeling like I ought to come up with some kind of list of my must-do’s. Will do some checking around on lifelist.com and 43things for tips from veteran Bucket Listers, and report back.