Saturday, December 29, 2012

No Cheater Left Behind

As the 10-year anniversary of No Child Left Behind drew closer, 44 Atlanta schools in my home town of Atlanta were found guilty of altering test scores. When the state of Georgia performed an investigation, it issued a report stating that cheating on standardized tests date back to 2001 and occurred in nearly half of the city’s schools. Coincidence? Some would say so, but it seems that the way the program is structured facilitates an environment for increased cheating. Ever since the program was signed into law by President Bush in 2002, test results have become a driving force in the hiring and firing of teachers and principals alike.
Former Atlanta School Superintendent, Dr. Beverly L. Hall, ruled an empire of fear with an iron fist, an empire where principals were made or broken depending on the test scores they could produce. Throughout her 10-year tenure, 90 percent of the principals that worked under her were removed. Principals that didn’t measure up to her standards were humiliated during rallies at the Georgia Dome. Those with the highest test scores got to sit up front near her while the rest were relegated to the anonymity of the bleachers. Hall is remembered by her co-workers as “the queen in her ivory tower,” says Verdaillia Turner, president of the Atlanta teachers’ union. Hall’s tactics garnered her national recognition, but although she was hosted at the White House by the secretary of education, Arne Duncan, and named the superintendent of the year by two national organizations, her glory was short-lived. When the Atlanta miracle collapsed, the ugly truth revealed that 178 principals and teachers had cheated to grant students who could barely read proficient scores on state tests. It seems that No Child Left Behind is the culprit of thousands, if not millions, of children being “left behind”, left illiterate and undereducated. Since schools receive increased governmental money for producing test scores that meet a certain criteria, what happened in the Atlanta Public School System is not an isolated event, nor is it the last of the cheating scandals. In one survey conducted by the Atlanta Journal Constitution, it was found that many states do not use basic test security measures designed to stop cheating on tests. Cheating scandals have surfaced in several major cities, and 196 school districts exhibited patterns of suspicious test scores. Under No Child Left Behind, schools that don’t meet acceptable criteria must allow students to transfer to different institutions and offer tutoring services to those who remain. So not only does the program reward higher test scores, it also costs schools extra money if they cannot “make the grade”. Simply put, No Child Left Behind is a program that the nation needs to leave behind.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Should African-American Reparations be Awarded by America?

African-American Reparations
African-American Reparations

Did you know that slaves were forced to perform 222,505,049 hours of free labor between 1619 and 1865? 
Although it seems that the moral justification in favor of black reparations should be embedded in the high-seated, lofty principles on which America was founded and intertwined within the deepest roots of American history, this simply isn't the case. Ever since the first law was passed in favor of African-American reparations, the progress for awarding them has been stifled by right-wing idealogs and stymied by the rapid proliferation of social ignorance. Indeed, America's hegemonistic society is rapidly spiraling towards a decline in social values, which has resulted in a paralysis of national mobility on the issue. Nevertheless, the now nationally-syndicated issue of African-American reparations has, in recent years, come to be a  hotly-debated topic  that's perpetually surrounded by a some degree of controversy. This article will analyze the historical significance of such pivotal events as the “40 Acres and a Mule Proclamation”-- originally issued by Gen. William T. Sherman as Special Field Order 15 in 1865-- as well as the recent passing of H.R. 40 Bill in 2010, when African-Americans were given their first glimmer of hope for receiving reparations. 

On one hand, opponents of African-American reparations have been effective at obfuscating the issue and blocking the legal argument for African-American reparations in the highest courts in America while the progeny of former slaves continue to suffer the brutalities that are an inherent attribute of a racist society. Some people may ask how. Police brutality, a judicial system biased  towards Caucasians and their interests, a vast number of African-Americans living in substandard housing, the disproportionate African-American prison population, the villinaization of African-Americans by the media, the disproportionate African-American corporate population, and the substandard schooling and school equipment that African-Americans in urban neighborhoods have access to are all consequences of living in today's racist, slanted society.

The World We Live In (Being Honest With Ourselves.)
 In this society, African-American lives are looked on by the white racist majority as substandard, not worthy of dignity, autonomy, or respect. Indeed, this country considers black lives to be "expendable", and the result of this unspoken policy is the deluge of black blood that runs through America like a mighty river. In spite of the conflicting viewpoints surrounding the issue of African-American reparations, there is no viable, moral justification concerning the denial of African-American reparations. I will hereby set forth to prove that African-American reparations are due to the descendants of all former slaves.

Mark Hollis states, in his article "A Bill for Reparations, "that “[he believes] this bill (H.R. 40) to be symbolic, as the bill has never actually had any kind of hearing in the past….”  One of the three-dollar words coined by Republicans who wish to oppose any thought of any special consideration due minorities in this country is "reverse discrimination." They have, somehow, convinced us that minorities start with no deficit in our society and that treating them in any special causes harm to the majority”.  

From this analysis, we can see that even as an opponent to traditional black reparations, Hollis is still profoundly aware of the slanted, stark opposition for reparations that denies the fact that black reparations are, indeed, a legitimate concern. This is a classic maneuver; denying the existence of an issue is fundamental for the formation of Republican legislative opposition to this issue.

Finally, Hollis quips that, “Today, the House Committee that Representative Conyers controls may well discuss his bill, but if you look at the legislation that the House of Representatives has to pass this year and if you look at the ethnic background of the US Senate, you will quickly conclude that such a bill will never see the President’s desk. I believe the right reparation in our society is best done in one's heart and mind because Congress cannot legislate and the President cannot enact a change of heart”.

Mark Hollis is probably correct when he predicts that Senate Bill H.R. 40 will probably never reach the President’s desk. Why? Because despite the niceties and nimieties (so-called overabundances) that African Americans feel like they enjoy in this day and age, the scathing truth is that we live in a society that was created by white people and for white people. And since granting black reparations is not in the interest of whites, the bill will probably never be passed. To the contrary, it seems that the general consensus of the "conscious citizens" which inhabit this blessed country are much more comfortable with the idea of  spending $1.3 trillion to subjugate colored people in Middle Eastern regions than to remunerate the descendants of the slaves who helped build our nation. Consider the mind frame of Thomas Jefferson when he so eloquently bloviates (to talk at length, especially in an inflated or empty way) these acerbically-racist words: “Are not the fine mixtures of red and white, the expressions of every passion by greater or less suffusions of color in the white race, preferable to that eternal monotony, which reigns in the countenances, that immovable veil of black that covers all the emotions of the other race?” 

Or, perhaps we should consider the sentiments of the acclaimed emancipator, Abraham Lincoln, when he said that “All men are created equal, except Negroes, foreigners, and Catholics!” In 2009, Joe R. Feagin published Racist America: Roots, Current Realities and future Reparations Remaking America with Anti-racist Strategies. In this well-written book, Feagin explains that systematic racism harms all non-white citizens of America. Feagin writes “Systematic racism is about everyday experience. People are born, live, and die within the racist system. This racist system permeates into every orifice of black thought and culture, preventing the healthy development of a positive community.”

When the Jews were oppressed by systematic racism, they received remuneration for the crimes of their oppressors, even if their original oppressors were not alive at the time of compensation. When blacks received their opportunity for reparations through Senate Bill Number 60, although it passed both Houses on February 10, 1866, President Andrew Johnson vetoed it. Today, almost 150 years later, the effort to obtain black reparations has been all but abandoned by the American government. 

            A more honest reckoning of our history would reveal the difficulty of transcending race without some attempt to repair the damage done by racial slavery and the structures of racism erected to justify it. After all, African-Americans were created in the crucible of slavery and socialized for centuries by white supremacy. And although most Americans may have had little to do with the cause of that problem, all of us have a stake in its solution. I contend that black reparations are due on the basis of the harm argument and the inheritance argument.

Bernard Boxill sums the inheritance argument up in a few words: “When people die their rights to their property are normally passed on to their heirs. The reparation owed to the freed people was their property; they had rights to it. It was never in their physical possession [,] of course [,] but it was nevertheless their property. Neither did they abandon it. It was forcefully kept from them. Consequently it should pass, by right of inheritance, to their descendants, the present black population.”

Next, Boxill explains the harm argument: “Slavery involved many transgressions against the slaves. The slaves were harmed by these transgressions. These harms initiated an unbroken chain of harms linked as cause and effect that persists to the present day. Since present day African Americans therefore suffer from harms caused by the transgressions of slavery it follows from the principles of reparative justice that they deserve reparation for those harms.”

Keeping it Real

In response to those who take the position that blacks reparations are not due on the basis that no single group perpetrated or benefitted from slavery, I proffer the fact that no single group benefitted from the subjugation of the American Indians either. To claim that the beneficiaries of stolen wealth have no moral obligation to recompense the group of people from whom the wealth was stolen is both illogical and immoral. African Americans owe no debt of gratitude to a country that displaced and enslaved them when “freedom” is granted. And although a limited number of white Americans owned slaves, slavery is much more than whips and chains. In today’s world, American whites benefit from a system that retains many of its original provisions that facilitate social and economic segregation and degradation, while American Blacks suffer from the emotional and financial impact of slavery to this day. America is indebted to the progeny of those black men and women who built this country without pay, and it is time to pay the piper. Reparations are due!plumbing atlanta

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Secret Police, Drone Strikes, now Robotic Police. Is America becoming a Police State?

It is no longer extreme to say that America is rapidly degenerating into a fascist state. Why not? While many Americans loosely throw the term around when describing other countries, let's take a look at the definition. Facism is a movement that places the nation above the individual, has a centralized, absolute government, oppressive economic and social regimentation and suppresses political opposition with the use of force.

Instead of rejecting the notion that we are becoming a fascist state based on the stigmata that surrounds the issue, why not compare the practices of the American government to the actual definition.

                     Definition                                                                   Policy

 Places the nation above the individual        Drone Strikes kill U.S. citizens that never stood trial     
                                                                 in the name of national security.                   

                                                                 The 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, which                  
                                                                 allows the military to detain without a trial any
                                                                 American citizen accused of being a terrorist or   
                                                                 “suspected” of supporting terrorist activity. Many people would 
                                                                 be surprised to know that many "terrorist" organizations are 
                                                                 institutions based right here in America. American journalists, 
                                                                 people who store up lots of food, those who participate in social 
                                                                 networks, young people and many regular citizens are now 
                                                                 "terrorist suspects". 

Centralized, absolute government               The Military Commissions Act of 2006, which (in the
                                                                 event of crisis) would grant the President absolute 
                                                                 dictatorial power over government and the people with  
                                                                 no checks and balances. While many would  argue these extreme   
                                                                 measures are for our protection, measures like these enabled 
                                                                 Hitler to create fascist Germany.

Economic and social regimentation               As of 2007, the top one percent owned 42 percent of
                                                                   the country’s financial wealth. The bottom 80 percent
                                                                   owned only seven percent of America's wealth. Looks
                                                                   like economic regimentation has become pretty severe.

Suppresses opposition with force                 The most recent examples of forceful suppression  
                                                                   are the instances in which protesters in the occupy movements     
                                                                   were brutalized for exercising their right of assembly.  
84 year-old woman at Occupy Seattle after being sprayed with pepper spray.

Although you won't find America listed as one of the countries that has maintained a department of secret police in Wikipedia, the federal agency COINTELPRO fits the definition to the tee. We never learned of their existence until 1971, and they were responsible for discrediting and disrupting political agendas that didn't align with their ideologies, planted false media stories, published inaccurate and inflammatory propaganda, gave perjured testimonies and violated almost every American liberty that one can imagine, including murder.

A successful COINTELPRO operation to murder Fred Hampton.

I'm sure that although the existence of America's secret police has become declassified, there is another "classified" agency that has taken its place. 

Mussolini once said, "Fascism should be more accurately called corporatism, because it is a merger of state and corporate power.

The Citizens United ruling, made by the Supreme Court in 2010, is America's way of saying that from this point forward, all government offices are up for sale. For instance, in the recent presidential election, billionaire Sheldon Adelson set a new record by donating a whopping 70 million dollars to help Mitt Romney win. Though 70 million dollars may seem like a lot of money to gamble on a candidate that may or may not win, under Romney's tax plan, Adelson would have saved 2.3 billion. Since Adelson has a net worth of over 20 billion dollars, the 70 million he dropped on the Romney campaign was a mere "drop in the bucket" that could have brought him a 3000 percent return on investment. When wealthy corporate interests dominate government, you then have the epitome of a fascist system. To say that America is "free" while nearly all of our freedoms have been eliminated with the aid of a corporate-owned government is inaccurate and illogical.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The REAL Reason Why BarackObama Won the Election

Barack Obama, the post-partisan candidate who recently won the election of 2012, defeated Mitt Romney so badly that Republicans across America want to know just how he did it. Despite Republican claims that Obama was a foreigner, assaults on his personal character and multilevel attempts of voter suppression across the country, President Obama seemed to effortlessly stride to victory. The truth of the matter is that Mitt Romney was never a worthy opponent for BarackObama in the first place.
Americans, it seems, have learned the lesson from President Bush that you can’t trust a double talking liar to lead the country effectively. For instance, Romney claimed to be against abortion, but  invested heavily in a company that disposed of aborted fetuses. 

As Mitt Romney flip-flopped his way down the campaign trail, the Obama campaign took carefully planned steps to ensure his second term. Everything from Mitt Romney’s stance on immigration to his renowned statement: “Let Detroit go bankrupt”, only added to his nefarious reputation.

While Romney built his campaign foundation on slander and negativity, BarackObama continued to build more campaign headquarters, until he had far more than Romney. In Ohio alone, BarackObama had 122 campaign headquarters, compared to Romney’s 40.
Every Republican that has ever become President has won Ohio; therefore, it would seem like Romney would have allocated some of that money he was using to run negative ads to building campaign headquarters in Ohio and other battleground states. Not so. It seems that Romney was counting on the immense sums of money given to his campaign by Super PAC donors like Sheldon Adelson—billionaire casino developer and nuclear power plant owner—to impact “low-information voters” through television ads. In the years of yore, before catastrophic Bush Years, when the white voting bloc reigned supreme, these tactics may have worked.
But the demographics of America are changing, and where white voters formerly held the electoral majority, the “minority” vote has become the majority, and white voter numbers are in rapid decline. This means that while the Republican Party has made it their business to cater to the ideologies of the white voting bloc, they will now be forced to change their strategy.
The effect that demographics had on seven key battleground states was immense. Shifting demographics turned what could have equated to a victory for Romney, into a landslide for Obama in Ohio, Virginia, Iowa, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Nevada and Colorado.

 BarackObama is a President the American people can trust, not someone who says one thing in the eyes of the public and something else in a private conference room.

 Mitt Romney, on the other hand, wouldn’t even release his taxes for the American people to see. Obama accomplished many good things in his first four years as President: growing job growth, reducing healthcare costs and killing Bin Laden, just to name a few.

 But besides running a superior campaign, Obama is likeable, trustworthy and honest. Even Romney's fellow Republicans can't stand him. After losing, these words spoken by political analyst Larry Sabato ring true: ""I just don't think Romney ever established an emotional connection with much of anybody in the party. He was essentially a cyborg designed to win the presidency, and when he failed he was placed in the disposal bin." Good riddance Mitt Romney!

mitt romney pumping gas
Mitt Romney pumping gas

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Culture and Tradition of The Geechee-Gullah People, and How It's Coming to an End.

Geechee-Gullah islanders have created some of the most profitable plantations in the American industry in the coastal regions of Southeast America with their rice fields, from as far south as Florida and as far north as North Carolina. They have also inserted and established themselves as vital fixtures in United States history, while continually practicing ethnic traditions from West Africa since they arrived in the mid-1700s.

Today, the culture and tradition of the Geechee-Gullah people is beginning to fade away, due to modern encroachments on land and vital resources. But their cultural traditions still live strong for the time being, and teach that every life lesson is essential to learning, even while having fun.
William S. Pollitzer writes, "Readers will learn of the indigo and rice growing skills that slaves taught to their masters, the echoes of an African past that are hand-wrought into baskets and made known through family quilts, the forms and phrasings that identify characteristics of Gullah speech."

Building a culture requires values; the culture and tradition of the Geechee-Gullah people are reflected in their daily lives and activities. Weaving is a way for children to hone their skills for society and integrate themselves into the culture and tradition of Geechee-Gullah life.
Folklore and storytelling are used, effectively, to convey life lessons to impressionable children. In Joel Chandler Harris's book "Brer Rabbit and the Tar-Baby", young readers are taught a valuable lesson about life choices, risks and decisions. In the well-known tale, Brer Rabbit will approach the Tar Baby, try to socialize with the inanimate figure and then respond violently by striking the Tar Baby. By doing so, Brer Rabbit falls right into the trap set by Brer Fox.

The culture and tradition of the Geechee-Gullah people also incorporate song and dance as a way to provide fun, recreation,spiritual development and moral advancement to children. In the movie, "Tales From The Land Of Gullah For Kids", by Clark Santee and Anita Singleton-Prather and the Gullah Kinfolk--a contemporary work--lyrics from well known songs are recited and passed down from generation to generation, like Kumbayah and many others. These songs reflect the spiritual values and expectations of community whilst fostering a reverence for God.

Festivals and events reinforce many popular African traditions, and provide the type of exuberant events that kids love. Festivals are held in at least five states across the southeastern seaboard, such as the Winyah Bay Festival in South Carolina and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Remembrance in Georgia. These fun-filled festivals serve as valuable reinforcements of the culture and tradition of the Geechee-Gullah people, and are  centered around positive recreation as well as music, dance, folklore and more.

Unfortunately, the culture and tradition of the Geechee-Gullah people may soon come to an end. On
June 8, 2001, Dahleen Glanton, of the Chicago Tribune, reported that federal officials conceded to their "inabilty" to protect theses cultures from the ensuing land encroachment.

Since the government already owns approximately 97 percent of the land where the islanders reside, it seems like they may be satisfied, and tolerate the inhabitants of tiny islands, like the residents of Sapelo Island Ga., but apparently not. As of late this year, the government says that it will increase taxes on the 50 or so residents of Sapelo Island by 540 percent. 

The feds have already warned us that we should expect to see such increases in the remaining three percent of areas that are inhabited by the Geechee and Gullah people. It seems that three or four hundred dollars a year isn't enough; taxes will be raised to two or three thousand dollars per year for the small houses on the island with tin roofs, and the government's insatiable quest for land and resources will drive the culture and tradition of the Geechee-Gullah people into oblivion.

In Geechee-Gullah culture, folklore heavily influences their sense of moral responsibility. Song and dance are intertwined with religious traditions reaching back to ancient African roots,so if song, dance, storytelling, spirituality and prose are the cornerstones of successful Geechee and Gullah cultures, then the dominance, indignation and greed perpetrated on the world by America  is the equivalent of  Brer Rabbit's ambition to beat up the Tar Baby. It seems like imperialist America stands to gain nothing more from the Geechee-Gullah people, so it's time for them to leave the land that they have cultivated for hundreds of years.