Officer in Sandra Bland case should have waited for backup he had called…

July 24, 2015

Just watched the infamous video of the Sandra Bland arrest.

I could only come to one conclusion: the highway patrol officer in Texas was way out of line and obviously not fit to handle the pressure of the job. I would certainly not be able to handle it. People can make me quite angry at times but I know my limits. I could not be a policeman, but neither should the officer in the video.

I also observe, that as so often is the case in these type of incidents, the woman would have done better to simply comply with the officer’s initial request and then order. The officer actually politely requested that she extinguish her cigarette and although she apparently did at some point she did offer much resistance and copped an attitude.

And I even thought he kind of provoked her by saying at least once: “you seem irritated.”

She had every right I thought for questioning why the officer was making such a big deal about what he said was a failure to make a turn signal. But sometimes it’s better to hold one’s tongue.

But at one point the officer orders her out of the car. She eventually complies, well, after he attempts to physically pull her out and threatens to “light her up?” (not sure about the phrase) but she questions why she is being ordered out of her car and if she even has to get out.

What is not shown in any of the footage I saw was what happened after she exited the car. But there was apparently some kind of scuffle, and I think by that time other officers had arrived. And I think in a voice recording Bland is heard complaining that they had slammed her head somehow.

I was recently stopped in my own personal vehicle by a highway patrol officer. I just played it cool. He admitted up front that he was new and strangely enough he seemed to admit the stop was just a pretext. He said I had a license plate sticker that looked a little faded (whoever gets stopped for that?), and he mentioned as an aside that I seemed to be following a truck too closely. I in turn admitted to some embarrassment in that I am a professional truck driver. My excuse for the possible following too  close, which I don’t think I told him, was that I was getting ready to pass the truck but was blocked because the patrol car was coming up in the other lane. He up and told me that they (the highway patrol) were on the lookout for drugs. He asked me if I had any illegal items. I answered no (both because that was true and it seemed like the obvious best answer). We had a nice chat and I was on my way without a citation, albeit with an irritating delay and irritation I kept to myself. I mention this because in reality I was irked. I was minding my own business exercising my freedom of movement and I get stopped for what seemed like bogus reasons. He kept asking me where I had been and where I was going. Like that is really his business? I mean I know if there was some observable probable cause for stopping me and then in the course of doing so contraband was in plain sight or I consented to a search and contraband was found, then the officer would have been within the law. But I felt he overstepped (maybe he did not). But I am alive and Sandra Bland is not.

She was found dead from an apparent suicide in her cell done my hanging herself with a plastic bag. Some are questioning that. There is some indication that she had mental problems, and it was reported by police that she had indicated that she was suicidal in her booking info she filled out.

And I did not bother to mention yet, since this has been in the news, that the woman was black.

I am white. I was stopped by a rookie officer on a pretext in order that he might spot contraband.

But our deceased woman it seems may have fell victim to what black people refer to as being stopped while black. Purportedly the officer had just previously stopped a white woman and let her off with a warning (don’t know for sure about that one).

I note in the video that the officer calls for backup. Good idea. He should have left her alone in the car and waited for the backup and a woman officer perhaps to talk her out of the vehicle (if even her exciting the vehicle was necessary). And as I noted earlier once backup did arrive there were still problems. But I don’t see why it was so important for her to get out of the car. If nothing else, waiting could have offered protection against liability to the officer.

The officer may or may not have been correct in deciding to consider her to be resisting arrest. And I think the law or at least common sense requires that persons being detained lawfully by police show some amount of decorum.

And even if you feel you are being detained unlawfully, better to fight it out in an administrative hearing or court later and live to tell about it.

I don’t know if these types of incidents are escalating or if they are just being reported more frequently because they have come into the news and because these videos are ubiquitous.

Whatever the case, something has to be done to totally revamp police procedures.

If police had a different attitude eventually there might be a change of attitude by people who have been brought up to both fear and disrespect police.

There of course will always be trouble makers out there.


There are suspicious gaps and signs of editing in the video, and then there is always the what happened just before the cameras rolled and after and what angle they were at and so on. But I think what I saw tells the story enough to show there was a tragedy that could have been avoided by an officer with a little more tact and patience. We should not have to live in fear of the police.

Like Germans recognizing horrors of the Holocaust, some Southerners now feel shame over slavery

June 24, 2015

It appears that the horror of the shooting and murders by a young white man, somehow influenced by extreme racism, of several people in a Bible study class at a black church in South Carolina has had something like the effect the horrors of Nazism had on the German public, especially the generations that came after World War II.

Even though Southerners are still proud to be who they are and to be from where they are, they are not necessarily proud of what their ancestors did — I’m not saying all southerners feel that way, but according to a news story I just read it has become fashionable to recognize or admit that what the old Confederacy did was basically fight to preserve slavery, and as someone in that story said, all the terrible things that go along with human bondage.

(And one article I read claims that the notion that the Civil War was about more than just slavery is a false one, that in fact that is what it was about; I’ll comment on that some paragraphs down.)

Although there is the disturbing presence of Neo-Nazism in Germany today, the mainstream of German society recoils at its World War II-era past in which some 50 million Jews and others not meeting the qualifications of the “Super Race” were condemned to death in what is termed the Holocaust (gassed to death and incinerated in ovens) or at the very least slave labor, which often killed them by the physical abuse and starvation.

With this recent shooting and all the recent deadly confrontations between blacks and white police, with deaths being suffered by the blacks, many who before might have continued to defend the flying or other display of the old Confederate battle flag, the Stars and Bars, as nothing more than an innocent, prideful recognition of Southern heritage realize or own up to the fact it is among other things a symbol of white supremacy and the right to deny civil rights to non-whites (or more specifically blacks). Yes there may also be a symbolism for the nostalgia of the antebellum South and the genteel, rural way of life with grand plantations over a beautiful landscape. But a major component of that old way of life was the use of human beings as slaves. And really, in this day and age, one cannot with a straight face defend slavery and at the same time call him or herself a believer in American democracy.

I do not really know what the real attraction of the Stars and Bars is. It goes beyond a symbol of the old Confederacy. Many with no Southern heritage like to use it, adorning their pickups trucks and such. It’s sort of a symbol of anti-establishment, anti-intellectual, certainly anti-liberal, feeling. It is maybe a symbol of individualism, as in “I’m a rebel”. And to some extent just something to have fun with and enjoy when you’re out and about or when you are kicking back and having some brews.


He’s a drug store truck drivin man
He’s the head of the Ku Klux Klan
When summer rolls around
He’ll be lucky if he’s not in town…

(Recorded by The Byrds. Song authors: Gram Parsons and Roger McGuinn.)


I feel somewhat neutral as to whether it should be displayed (I mean this is supposed to be a free country with freedom of speech and expression).

Some Southern states have actually at times incorporated it into their own flags, while the Stars and Bars itself may also fly at the capitols of some Southern states, and some states offer or allow or have allowed Confederate license plates.

I do think one has to realize what the history of that symbol is. If not, then one is ignorant or being intellectually dishonest.

And it would seem good judgment to tone it down in the interest of a more harmonious society.

A major reason for the loss of favor among the political establishment with the Stars and Bars, especially in the South where it did hold favor, is the fact that blacks nowadays, finally, have political clout. And despite the fact that racism persists and rears its ugly head, overall we have a much more tolerant society. And while young racists, such as the one in South Carolina, are still being produced, most young people today I think don’t look at the world through the prism of race.

And here is the biggie: commercial interests, such as Walmart, want no part of losing customers over the issue of race and bigotry. Walmart as an example says it will stop selling Confederate flags.

Earlier this year, the business sector wanted no part of political moves to discriminate against gays. Again, why would they want to lose business?

And what was the American Civil War all about? It was not taught well when I went to grade school and high school. I learned a little more in college but I think either it was not presented quite right there or I failed to see the forest for the trees. I mean as a kid I simply knew that Lincoln freed the slaves. Then one learns that there were the issues of states’ rights and tariffs and such. But when you read and think about it all, you have to come back to the same point, the whole thing revolved around a social and political and economic system that revolved around treating certain human beings as nothing more than livestock. And in no way can that have ever been right. It has been a mark of ever-lasting shame on our nation. But we can get over it. We have made amends. Let’s don’t go backwards.

So definitely I don’t think government entities should have anything to do with flying the confederate symbol, be it the battle flag or anything else associated with slavery.

As to individuals, I would hope we could just leave that up to personal judgment.

Bigotry exists, but it is not as popular as it once was. Or at least I hope not.


The guilt or shame or regret over slavery and our racist past is actually shared by all since all parts of the nation had a part in it and slavery was even written into our beloved Constitution. I did not mean to state or otherwise imply that the South holds all the responsibility.

The time for the voting rights act and affirmative action may have run out…

March 2, 2013

Seems like to me it is time for affirmative action and special enforcement in the voting rights act to end. I am not convinced that the idea of discriminating against the formerly favored class in order to make up for the wrongful discrimination of the formerly unfavored class was ever right to begin with, but that is history, or should be.

In college in a constitutional law class I suggested in a paper that the remedy, or at least a possible remedy in some cases, for unfair discrimination in hiring would be to put the names of equally qualified candidates, irrespective of race of course, into a hat or a lottery and to pick them out at random. The liberal woman professor was dubious, to say the least, of that.

And maybe Justice Antonin Scalia was right to question the continued need for the Voting Rights act of 1965 and its special control over election procedures in several states.

The conservatives on the high court have indicated skepticism over both the special oversight in the voting rights act and affirmative action policies too in the 1960s civil rights legislation.

The only special procedures needed, and they should not be special, is to allow citizens to vote, regardless of race, color, or creed. If a person is turned down for voting there has to be a reason. I know some states do not allow ex-felons to vote and others do. And while knowledge of the issues and the political process would be nice, we cannot require that, if for no other reason than the test and standards applied would be subjective and would almost certainly be weighted in favor of some political persuasion. Sadly, even literacy cannot be required. In order to have a free society everyone must be able to vote.

(Of course literacy tests were used in the South to bar blacks from voting. The old story is that one test actually asked how many bubbles in a bar of soap, and I don‘t know what the correct answer was for that.)

I’m not up on the provisions of the voting rights act. It may be that it is needed to give the federal Justice Department authority to monitor and look out for unfair and discriminatory activities in the registration of voters. But this should apply for the equal protection of all voters everywhere, and not just the historically discriminated class. While we may well still have discrimination we will never move beyond racial discrimination if we keep making special rules for one class as if they could not take care of themselves (that is discrimination in and of itself that actually hurts that class).

It might be nice if Justice Scalia was somewhat more diplomatic and less insulting. He talked of the dangers of perpetuating “racial entitlements”, meaning, one must suppose, that black people are getting favored treatment (as the result of past discrimination). But how do you say enough is enough, let’s move beyond the 60s?

A white guy once again looks back on the time of Martin Luther King Jr.

January 17, 2011

As many observe the birthday of the slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., I recall that 43 years ago today I was one month shy of joining the U.S. Army.

And then on April 4 of that year, 1968, I was in basic training and out on what you might call a camping trip where we were all in two-man pup tents. The army called it bivouac. My tent partner was a big white boy, and I a not-so-big white boy. He took up enough room for the both of us. In fact, he rolled over and broke the tent pole.

We were not supposed to have personal radios, but someone did. The news came over the air that evening that King had been assassinated. I don’t recall seeing what the immediate reaction was of the black soldiers, of whom we had many in our basic training platoon and company. But it set off new waves of riots in black neighborhoods across the United States, there having been ones well before and after the King assassination.

The black guys in our basic platoon seemed to self-segregate themselves for the most part. And those black guys seemed to take right to the military training, except for one of them. That guy intentionally did things wrong or would not cooperate. All he did was sing a line from a popular soul tune of the time: “sunshine and blue skies go away; I wish it would rain…”  Well, he got his wish. I think it rained every day I was at Ft. Lewis.

Eventually he was dropped from the platoon. We saw him later, as we marched by, in another platoon where he reportedly had to start training all over, and sure enough, he was still singing that song — and it was still raining.

You’re probably asking yourself about now: “what does all this have to do with Martin Luther King Jr. really?”

Nothing, maybe. It’s just a remembrance of a white guy who had not been around black people a lot before he joined the army and of the times themselves.

I don’t know if this was before or after the assassination, but one night in basic I served boiler room duty with a black guy. He was not terribly friendly, kind of surly, and he kept making remarks about white people all being prejudiced.

Although no doubt a lot of white racists were in the army at that time, there were also a lot of white guys like me who had not been brought up around many blacks and who had been taught, though, that discrimination and looking down on someone because of the color of one’s skin was wrong (that does not mean no one ever heard or told a racist joke; people of all races do this).

But I think my experience with that guy in the boiler room set the tone for my experience with black people the rest of my one hitch in the army. And that tone was not good.

It seems that all whites were considered guilty for the terrible injustices and even terror and murder inflicted on the black race.

To my way of thinking, they had in pretty good in the army, especially if like me they were in Germany, and faced equal opportunities, except probably in the officer corps at the time. And, to be sure, a lot of them did realize just that and took advantage of it and became career soldiers.

But not everyone, me included, wants to be relegated to being a soldier all of his life, keeping in mind your next tour may well be dodging bullets.

(And this has to be noted: black soldiers represented 12.6 percent of the troops in Vietnam, while representing 11 percent of the U.S. population as a whole, and 12 percent of the troops killed in Vietnam were black, at least according to the statistics I just got off the web. )

And I think what may have been working on some of those black guys I came into contact with or observed in Germany was that once this gig was over they had to go back home to the mean streets. They saw some of the older black career soldiers as Uncle Toms, bending to the ways of the white man. They may have seen some of their own parents as too subservient to whites. And many came from broken homes with little prospects, outside of crime and drugs, once they went back to civilian life.

We had a mini race riot of our own where I was stationed in Germany. A gang of black soldiers beat up a white NCO. No one was punished. Somehow, I think if a white guy had beat up an NCO, black or white, he would have been punished. But with the racial strife of the times, the army was particularly sensitive to charges of racism, so in response sometimes looked the other way — not all the time.

There was another incident in which a bunch of black soldiers stole some weapons. They were allowed to get off scot-free by simply returning them anonymously (but it was known who many or all of the perpetrators were).

These experiences are carried through life by old white guys like me. Some get bitter, some just shake their heads, but it may explain why even today race relations are not always what they should be.

All this was not much about Martin Luther King Jr. So I will say that at least thanks to him a non-violent but ultimately quite successful tactic, non-violence, was injected into the civil rights movement and that is why his birthday is celebrated.

May all races live in harmony.


Another thing I have to appreciate King for was that he was a fairly early opponent of the Vietnam War, considering it both unjust and a waste of money that could be better spent on social programs here at home. (As always, I qualify my criticism of that war, by saying I do not condemn those who served as part of what was felt at the time to be duty to their country or in the case of draftees a legal obligation, as well as a duty.)

P.s. P.s.

My description of black soldiers of the time was of course a generalization (but not an exaggeration) and did not include all of whom I came into contact with or observed.

Looting and vandalism have nothing to do with honest protest…

July 9, 2010

Many of the hometown crowd thought it was murder when a Bay Area Rapid Transit System (BART) cop shot and killed a young black man in the wee hours of this past New Year’s Day, but an all-white jury called it involuntary manslaughter and so in reaction some looted stores and engaged in vandalism in Oakland, Ca. last night.

Excuse me. Am I missing something here? I don’t see the relationship between the two. You think an injustice was committed so in protest you commit one yourself.

Somehow I actually think that those who loot stores just want the merchandise and see the so-called protest angle as an excuse.

To be sure, there do seem to be continuing race problems in Oakland. And even seemingly law-abiding black citizens often tell their stories on radio talk shows of being stopped by police for apparently no reason — they call it “driving while black”.

In the incident in question, one Oscar Grant was riding on BART and was involved or got caught up in some kind of fracas on the train.

He was detained by police but was said to resist. However, at the time of his shooting he was pinned down on the ground.

Transit cop Johannes Mehserle claims he thought he was grabbing his taser gun but mistakenly grabbed his service weapon and accidentally and fatally shot Grant.

Grant ‘s history with the law indicates he was no angel, but of course that does not mean that he can lawfully be murdered.

Some sage black people are advising young black men (or anyone) that when you deal with police the thing to do is to cooperate. Even if they are treating you badly, you will at least survive.

More than one black person I heard on KGO Radio last night claimed that the rules are different between white kids and black kids. They claim white kids can get away with more.

I also heard from someone near and dear to me who lives in the Bay Area that the BART cops kind of act like Nazis toward just about anyone they come into contact with (actually that is my interpretation of what this person said).

While I have read some of the coverage on the story over these past months, I am not steeped in the details.

From what I have gathered, though, BART has a continuing problem of rowdy, mostly black, riders in the Oakland area. There is tension between the BART cops and that crowd. One BART officer, not the defendant in the shooting trial, but the one who originally detained Grant, the victim, yelled the N word several times that night.

My conjecture is that Mehserle got caught up in the moment and really did not realize what he was doing (some earlier statements by him had indicated that he knew he had drawn his gun). I think the verdict was probably correct. I understand he’s looking at a sentence between 5 to 14 years.

I think there is a large contingent of black people in Oakland who although they feel racism still persists, in the words of Rodney King, they think: “Why can’t we just all just get along?”

They implore the younger set to behave themselves and not break the law and to bear up to some continuing injustices, while working to set things right, and not risk jail and pre-mature death.

They also claim that some of the violence is the result of outside agitators.

But this vandalism and looting — I watched in on TV each summer in the 60s as black ghettos erupted in riots all over the nation.

Civil rights has been a long struggle and it may not be over yet, even though we now have a black president, but somehow I don’t think looting and vandalism have any connection with righting wrongs.

In fact, I think it only serves to perpetuate the problem and anyone caught ought to face the full consequences under the law.


In kind of a strange twist, the trial was held in Los Angeles after a request for change of venue and before a jury with no blacks on it. That has some in the black commuity suspicious. But then again a black jury in LA apparently let OJ Simpson get away with murder. Two wrongs, of course, would not make a right.

Why Miranda? Why exceptions? Why Miranda?

May 16, 2010

Blogger’s Note: With the recent Times Square attempted car bombing incident and subsequent arrest as well as the recent underwear bomber case and others there has been much discussion about Miranda warnings and existing exceptions and creating more or wider exceptions. So here are some of my wild thoughts on the subject: 

The whole idea of Miranda warnings — you know, you have the right to remain silent and anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law, and you have a right to counsel (before you say anything), and so on — is to prevent police from forcing false confessions out of suspects.

Forcing confessions is a time-honored practice by police. For one thing, it is seen as efficient. It saves a lot of time in investigating. And for another, police know that the public pays them to get the bad guys and they would not be doing their job if they did not get right down to the nitty gritty and catch someone and do what they can to get them convicted (by turning them over to the DA with their own confessions) and put in prison.

Of course it does not really help matters if the wrong person is arrested. There is a long history of innocent people confessing to crimes they did not commit. There are a myriad of ways to intimidate folks into lying to their own disadvantage. Just being held captive with no clear idea of when and if you will be let go is probably enough for most of us to eventually just say anything our captors want to hear (hey, that‘s why torture is not a reliable method of getting the truth out of someone).

So back in 1966 the U.S. Supreme Court decided that police must issue warnings to suspects before those suspects were questioned and if they did not any self-incriminating evidence garnered as the result of interrogations could not be used in court.

The pertinent case here was Miranda v. Arizona (1966). In the end even though a confession was thrown out, the defendant, one Mr. Miranda, was subsequently convicted in a re-trial with other legally-obtained evidence. He served prison time and was released, only to die in 1976 in a bar fight.

The right we have to not be forced to testify against ourselves is in the Constitution. While we are all not constitutional scholars, and thank goodness, we should all know this. It’s fairly simple to understand. You have a right not to have hot lights shined on you or to be water boarded (well there seems to be a question on this), or to just be held for hours without rest or sleep and without hope you will ever see your friends and loved ones again, in an effort to get you to lie and say — I did it, I confess, just let me go! Make it stop! Stop the monkeys! (I don’t know where I got that last one; I think it was a clip out of that old TV show “The Avengers”).

If you were paying attention, information on your personal rights was given to you back in grammar school and high school when you studied or were at least supposed to have studied the Bill of Rights in the Constitution.

You also have a right to be secure in your own things and not be subjected to arbitrary search and seizure. Under the Constitution, police can’t without a proper warrant just barge into your home or office and start tearing things up trying to find something that seems to indicate you may have done something wrong. Back in the bad old days of Colonial America and in the monarchies of the past, authorities could do just that and did.

You also have a right to counsel.

While no law abiding citizen would be unhappy if wrongdoers were discovered by way of police investigation, how secure could one feel if he or she knew that at any moment, police could come busting in and nosing around?

In a democracy people have the right to do and act as they please (as long as it does not violate the law or impinge on the rights of others). But sometimes people curry the disfavor of others, perhaps because they march to the beat of a different drummer, or sometimes people with ulterior motives want to discredit a rival. This leads to heavy-handed tactics of intimidation by authorities, such as arbitrary searches and seizures.

And anyone knows that police could find something in anyone’s possession that could be construed to be evidence of a crime or wrongdoing through misinterpretation.

But I know there are a lot of people who simply feel that the police would not arrest anyone or subject anyone to search and seizure if they were not guilty of something. To those people I would not even bother discussing Miranda or the Bill of Rights. It would be of no use.

Actually I am not sure that Miranda was the proper decision by the high court, though. It seems to me that since having a right to not incriminate yourself and having a right to counsel is so basic, and that everyone should know those rights, there is no need for the police to have to handicap themselves by being forced to dissuade people from talking, which is what they do when they read them their Miranda rights.

(Apparently, however, from all reports, the suspect in the Times Square incident has been quite willingly spilling his guts even after being given his Miranda rights.)

In addition, the remedy the high court comes up with for violation of one’s rights under Miranda and other personal protections is to create a loophole by way of excluding confessions and other illegally obtained evidence from being used at trial. So criminals at times are able to go free even though there is clear evidence against them, to include confessions. A remedy that allows obviously guilty people to go free is a danger to society and makes a mockery of  justice, thereby weakening the respect and effectiveness for and of the law.

I would be more comfortable with the courts deciding on a case-by-case basis whether someone may have actually been coerced into a confession.

When a suspect informs his interrogators that he (or she) does not want to talk or wants to have counsel first, then I would think police should certainly stop at that point.

It could well be that individual law enforcement agencies might take it upon themselves to issue Miranda type warnings in all cases as standard policy. I understand that the FBI and the military were already using a Miranda-like warnings before the actual Miranda decision.

In the case of illegal searches, I’m not sure whether there is a choice but to exclude evidence. Police either go through proper channels and procedures for searches or they do not. There will always be the questions as to what constitutes a search, such as when things are said to be “in plain sight.”.

Back to Miranda: there is now discussion about so-called Miranda exceptions the courts have allowed for cases where the public is in imminent danger and information needs to be elicited on a timely basis.

If we did not have the Miranda requirement we would not have to have exceptions.

And something tells me that a whole can of worms is opened with the courts having to figure out whether something fits into an exception. Just about any circumstance could be construed as an exception, because the whole goal of police arresting someone is to protect the public from imminent danger.

Actually there is no restriction as far as I know on police interrogating a mad bomber without Miranda, it’s just that any info obtained that might be used to protect the public from some imminent danger, such as a bomb ready to explode or other attackers ready to attack, could not be used against the questioned subject in a court case.

When the high court ruled that police had to go through certain physical steps, that is reading Miranda statements to suspects, it went beyond interpreting the law to making policy. It moved from its judicial role to a role that seems to fit more into the legislative or even executive branches.

The high court would have done better to stick to interpreting the law.


Then again, we could just preserve Miranda without exceptions, and let police do what they need to do (short of torture) to get info to protect the public from imminent danger. With or without Miranda, nothing can really make someone tell you the truth.

P.s. P.s.

Since this is not a scholarly treatise I neglected to include various footnote type material, such as the amendments that guarantee personal rights, but here are some: Fourth Amendment, right against unreasonable search and seizure; Fifth Amendment, right against self-incrimination; Sixth Amendment, right to counsel, among other things.

And one more P.s.

A check of the web indicates that “stop the monkeys” actually comes from a made for TV movie in 1973 called Hunter in which a race car driver is made to look at Wizard of Oz footage to brain wash him. I still thought I saw it on the Avengers. Whatever (remember the flying monkeys that attacked Dorothy and her friends?).

What is the point in celebrating the Old Confederacy???

April 12, 2010

I really never did understand the Southern Confederacy nostalgia thing, except apparently some white folks (and I am white) long for the days when black folks behaved themselves and did what they were told.

I know back in the 1950s when the civil rights movement was in full swing a neighbor lady from Texas (we lived in California) remarked to my mother just as matter-of-factly as you please that down where she came from “colored people” would step off the sidewalk to get out of your way. She basically said that “negroes” were much more mannerly where she came from. I suppose she would celebrate the Old Confederacy.

Some try to explain away the celebration by saying that the heritage of the Old Confederacy is more than just slavery, that it was about state’s rights and preserving a Southern culture (which was based on slavery — so that makes no sense).

I think Southerners try to mask the slavery issue by calling the Civil War the “War Between the States”, as if it was just some kind of football game with one team against the other.

But when it comes down to it, the Civil War was about whether we could continue as a nation half slave and half free or not (to paraphrase President Lincoln, in a way, well he said we could not).

And what gets me — that is something I never could quite grasp — is how the Southern aristocracy could have convinced poor Southern whites to fight for the right of rich folks to own black people.

The only thing I have figured (and I have read about this) is that the poor whites liked to have someone else (easily identifiable) to be at the bottom of the pecking order.

Actually once upon a time, there were essentially white slaves in the U.S., indentured servants, who never could work off their indenture.

But someone figured out that it would be easier to keep track of slaves if they were a different color — say black.

Some black people in Africa rounded up other black people and sold them to white people who shipped them to the New World, to include the United States.

To get off the immediate subject, as I often do, it is an irony that the modern Republican Party’s first President, Abraham Lincoln, had to deal with Democrats who claimed state’s rights to defend the right to own other people.

Then in the next century — who knew? —  the Republicans would claim state’s rights in order to fight the Civil Rights bill, which among other things ensured that black people would not be prevented from voting and would not be required to sit at the back of a public bus or use separate public accommodations from white people.

And today, in still another century, Republicans and others use that state’s rights thing to oppose any federal legislation they don’t like.

But back to this celebrating the Old Confederacy:

I can see doing Civil War reenactments for the historical appreciation and I can see being proud of where you came from — that was then, this is now.

But to insult your fellow man (even if he is black) by acting like you wished it was the good old days when coloreds knew their place or when you could own people or to pretend that slavery was just a mere side issue of the Civil War just seems absurd and wrong to me.


And when you see the Stars and Bars displayed it usually signifies something to do with white supremacy — that’s just obvious on its face.

P.s. P.s.

On the other hand, there is nothing wrong with being white and proud of it, that is if you can be proud of it but not at the expense of someone else.

P.s. P.s. P.s.

And one more thing. To be sure, the civil rights struggle is and was nationwide, not just in the South. We all know this. I was just commenting on the recent proclamations by white Southern governors in celebration of the heritage of the Confederacy and the fact that they have implied or said outright that it has nothing to do with slavery.

A white guy perspective on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the progress that has been made…

January 18, 2010

As some observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day Monday in honor of  the slain black civil rights leader of the 50s and 60s, I a white guy offer this:

I have to think that a certain amount of tension, distrust, or at least suspicion, and competition among the races in somewhat of a natural human trait.

I also have to think that most of us white folk, at least those of us born to the Baby Boom generation and back, have grown up in a culture that puts out somewhat of a double message — one being that race discrimination or judging someone by the color of his or her skin is wrong and the other being that, well, black folk are second class, not that such is right, but, well, you know, that is how society (the non-black society) views it.

All school children are taught that Abraham Lincoln was the great emancipator of the black slaves in the United States of America. They are even told a tale of how when as a young boy he saw slaves being auctioned off and it made him sick (at least they taught that when I was in grade school). What they don’t teach in that lower level is that Lincoln did not feel that the black slaves were on par with white folks and probably never could be. He favored a plan to allow them to emigrate back to Africa. But Lincoln did feel that the United States could not survive as a nation half free and half slave. I think he was against slavery and also against the whole slave economy.

Eventually, the idea of allowing or providing for emigration back to Africa was tried. With the help of the U.S. government (I forget the exact history of this) some black people actually did go to Africa and a new nation of Liberia was created. But you have to realize that by this time this was generations later than when the original slaves came over. Those returning were no more natives of Africa than I am of Germany or France and wherever else my ancestors came from. The locals were none to keen on the idea. Also, another phenomenon was observed. The lighter skinned black immigrants took charge.

Another curious thing to me is that even Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation only applied to those in the rebellious states, not elsewhere, not even in the nation’s Capital, Washington, as I recall reading.

After the Civil War and after gaining their freedom, many former slaves and their descendants migrated north for better opportunities. And while they did find opportunities they also found discrimination just as bad as they faced in the South.

But thanks to the work of Martin Luther King Jr. and many other civil rights leaders and their followers, and thanks to President John F. Kennedy who pushed for civil rights legislation, and thanks to that slain president’s successor, Lyndon Johnson (once a segregationist because it was politically correct in his neck of woods at the time), who used his political skill and influence to push through major civil rights legislation, great progress was made.

All this did not by itself change things, but it did provide the structure and the legal backup.

A phenomenon I have noticed is that many individuals, irrespective of their race, take advantage of legitimate opportunities where they find them. Others look to excuses and cynically see opportunity there.

And to offer a candid white perspective I have to insert this: the image of black rioters smashing store windows and carrying out TV sets during those riots that took place each summer in the 60s sticks in my mind — how did this help the cause? Law abiding black people should not have to suffer as a consequence of non-law abiding ones, just as patriotic Muslims should not bear the guilt of those who are here to do us harm — but in both cases it might not hurt to hear a condemnation of the bad people from the good people of the same race or religious faith (just like all good Christians should disavow Pat Robertson, and don’t I go far afield here?).

When I was in the Army I noted that a lot of black men took advantage of the opportunity for a career there while others only saw the opportunity to use charges of race discrimination to get out of doing work.

Today, many black youth seem to think it is more important to be cool and hang out with the wrong crowd than to study at school (of course this goes for youth of all races).

Discrimination has not ended but it is nowhere near what it once was. There is still, and possibly always will be, that natural division among the races, but we do have a black president, and the President of the United States is without question the most powerful person in the world. If that is not progress for the race, I don’t know what is.