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Do you really want to seriously discuss race and racism?

04 joshua rodriguez SbwOToII 4 unsplashColumn Gist: I do not know what the situation will be in America when this column is published; however, protests, too often accompanied by violence and looting, have been routine over the last two weeks. The horrible killing of George Floyd prompted all of this. A primary component of what is being called for is a discussion of race and racism in America. Watching all that is being done in this time, and what is being said, leads me to ask if there is a real desire to seriously discuss race and racism in this country.

This, from a Wikipedia article titled, “Killing of George Floyd”:

“On May 25, 2020, George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man suspected of passing a counterfeit $20 bill, died in Minneapolis, Minnesota, after Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, pressed his knee to Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes while Floyd was handcuffed face down in the street; two other officers further restrained Floyd and another stood by and prevented onlookers from intervening.”

As I start this column on June 8, protests intended to be peaceful have been conducted for several days across America. Many of these protests ended with the looting of businesses, burning of buildings, attacks on police officers and civilians and even killing of innocent people, including police officers.

Let there be no doubt, the killing of George Floyd was a horrendous act that should never be inflicted on any human being. Amid the protests and violence that accompanies many of them, there is a call for discussing and confronting the alleged “rampant racism” in America. It is often referred to as “systemic racism.” The focus of the protests, speeches and other actions has been the contention that police killings of black citizens are out of control. Some people even label the situation as one of “genocide.” A Google search gives this definition of genocide: “… the deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular ethnic group or nation.”

Any discussion where there are differing thoughts or positions requires that all parties be able and willing to acknowledge what is factual. Just yesterday, I was in more than a two-hour phone discussion with a black friend that I have known for almost 70 years. We disagree on just about every consideration relating to the condition of black Americans. At one point in the conversation, I quoted some statistics to support a comment I had made. His response was that statistics can be twisted and what I was quoting probably came from some conservative source. I suggested that he check the statistics and source for himself. He had no interest in doing that. If you are not willing to come to grips with facts, are you really serious about discussing race and racism in America? The good news regarding that friend is that we left the conversation still friends. That has become a rare experience over the past several years since I started sharing my conservative views.

Against that backdrop, consider some facts. In 2015, The Washington Post began to log every fatal shooting by an on-duty police officer in the United States. Data for 2019, from The Post, is referenced in an article by Heather Mac Donald titled, “The Myth of Systemic Police Racism.” Portions of that article follow, but I encourage reading the full piece:

“In 2019 police officers fatally shot 1,004 people, most of whom were armed or otherwise dangerous. African-Americans were about a quarter of those killed by cops last year (235), a ratio that has remained stable since 2015. That share of black victims is less than what the black crime rate would predict, since police shootings are a function of how often officers encounter armed and violent suspects. In 2018, the latest year for which such data have been published, African-Americans made up 53% of known homicide offenders in the U.S. and commit about 60% of robberies, though they are 13% of the population.

“The police fatally shot nine unarmed blacks and 19 unarmed whites in 2019, according to a Washington Post database, down from 38 and 32, respectively, in 2015.

“In 2018 there were 7,407 black homicide victims. Assuming a comparable number of victims last year, those nine unarmed black victims of police shootings represent 0.1% of all African-Americans killed in 2019. By contrast, a police officer is 18 ½ times more likely to be killed by a black male than an unarmed black male is to be killed by a police officer.”

The Mac Donald article indicated that police killed nine unarmed blacks in 2019. In his June 3 show, Tucker Carlson on FOX Cable News reported this number as 10. Carlson included the one unarmed black woman who was killed while Mac Donald only included black men. Carlson reviewed what happened in each of the 10 cases. This is what he indicated: in five cases, the officer was clearly attacked by the offender; one involved an accidental shooting while the officer was struggling with the victim; four resulted from pursuit of an offender… two of these officers were charged with homicide. Watching the Carlson piece is absolutely necessary for anyone who wants to fairly answer the question posed by this column. Go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1qwif8PF1EI and start
watching at 6:40.

Examination of the information put forth by Mac Donald and Carlson gives a person reason to ask whether there is really out-of-control killing of black Americans by police officers; is there “black genocide?” The information used by Mac Donald and Carlson was based on data published by The Washington Post. It should be noted that a guest on Laura Ingram’s show, June 4, indicated that The Post changed the number of unarmed blacks killed by police officers in 2019 from 10 to 15. Does that increase of five change the picture?

Beyond the 10 or 15 deaths of unarmed black citizens attributed to police shootings in 2019, consider the 7,407 black homicide victims in 2018 — a number that will likely be similar in 2019. Following from an article by Barry Latzer titled, “The Need to Discuss Black-on-Black Crime”:

“In 2018, where the homicide victim was black, the suspected killer also was 88 percent of the time. And this is not an exceptional situation. From 1976 to 2005, 94 percent of black victims were killed by other African Americans.”

Applying Latzer’s 88% to 2018’s 7,407 black homicides means the suspected killer in 6,518 of those cases was likely black.

Seriously and successfully discussing race and racism requires that all voices be heard without anybody facing intimidation or penalty. An example of how this absolute requirement looks, when violated, shows in action taken by the Carolina Panthers, Charlotte Hornets, North Carolina State University, University of South Carolina and the Charlotte Knights minor league baseball club. An article at www.wsoctv.com/news titled, “Panthers, Hornets cut ties with CPI Security after CEO’s protest remark” applies. Segments follow:

“Charlotte’s two professional sports franchises, as well as two universities, have canceled partnerships with a North Carolina home security company after the firm’s CEO told an activist, who leads Queen City Unity and called for a boycott of CPI, he should focus on black-on-black crime rather than the George Floyd protests.


“Queen City Unity’s executive director said he sent a letter to city leaders calling for change when it comes to police brutality and community safety.

“In response, he said he received an email from CPI CEO Ken Gill saying in part, ‘A better use of time would be to focus on the black-on-black crime and senseless killing of our young men by other young men.’”

The CPI CEO offered an apology for his comments in a tweet. Considering the facts presented earlier, should CPI be punished for the CEO’s response? Was the CEO at all out of line in his comment? Do the actions of the Panthers and others advance serious discussion of race and racism?

If you see yourself as a person who really wants to discuss race and racism in America, how do you measure up on just these two points: (1) facing facts and (2) hearing opposing voices without seeking to intimidate or punish the sources of those opposing views?

Channeling Terry Sanford

03 Sanford2Raleigh political pundit and writer Gary Pearce posed an interesting question last week during this tense and racially charged time in our state and nation.

“What would Terry Sanford do?”

Terry Sanford was a man of great accomplishment. A country boy from down the road in Laurinburg, he was an Eagle Scout who later parachuted into France during World War II and was awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart for his efforts. He became an attorney and settled into private practice in Fayetteville, a small city whose size he liked and was not far from his hometown. Sanford had political aspirations, though, and spent a term in the North Carolina Senate before being elected governor in 1960. The Sanford family decamped from their Haymount home for four years in the Governor’s Mansion and later onto the national stage as Sanford became president of Duke University, a United States senator, and a two-time candidate for president of the United States.

Sanford’s is a storied history of service to North Carolinians and Americans in both politics and education, but it is his time as governor that Pearce references. Sanford was elected governor the same day John F. Kennedy was elected president, sharing the same platforms and with the same dreams. Sanford was an outlier in the South, a part of the country still mired in Jim Crow segregation and with strong and openly white supremacist leaders. Sanford defeated just such a candidate in the Democratic primary, a man who vowed to preserve racial segregation. Once in the Governor’s Mansion, Sanford forged ahead of other Southern leaders by supporting increased education funding, promoting higher education, including the establishment of North Carolina’s community college system. He promoted antipoverty programs, including establishment of the privately financed North Carolina Fund, a structure that insulated the fund from the protests of segregationists.

Sanford’s most enduring legacy, though, may be his support of civil rights and improved race relations, earning North Carolina a reputation as a progressive Southern state. By the time Sanford took office, segregation had been largely struck down by various courts but was still ingrained. He came into office concentrating on other issues but realized that racial discrimination underlay all aspects of daily life in North Carolina. He then appointed African Americans to state positions and integrated our state parks. He established what he called the Good Neighbor Council to facilitate communication and nondiscrimination and to prepare young people for the workplace. Sanford arranged for an FBI agent to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan in North Carolina, finding that our state was home to one of the nation’s largest Klan chapters.

While all this sounds pretty tame and anachronistic by today’s standards, it is important to remember that Sanford was virtually alone among Southern governors and other leaders in the stances he took and the efforts he made. Billboards supporting the Klan could be spotted on North Carolina’s roadways as late as 1977, a clear indication that our state was not past its segregationist heritage. Sanford’s legacy is that he spoke up when he saw injustice at a time when few Southern leaders did.

The legendary Kareem Abdul Jabbar, whose only connection to North Carolina, as far as I know, was beating the socks off the UNC-Chapel Hill basketball team in the 1968 NCAA championship game, sums up our situation this way. “Racism is like dust in the air. It is invisible — even if you are choking on it — until you let the sun in. Then you see it’s everywhere. As long as we keep shining that light, we have a chance of cleaning it wherever it lands.”

That was true in Terry Sanford’s day and it is true in ours.

Teen driving poses risks

05 N1206P15012CAs a parent, I remember the pit in my stomach as each of my children got old enough to get behind the wheel. Of course, I see the worst of what happens when people do not drive safely, but for all of us, there are so many worries and so much anxiety as our children learn how to drive. Will they drive safely? Will they be safe? What about the other crazy drivers on the road?

How does this process work? North Carolina has a graduated licensing process that requires students who are at least 14 ½ years old and are pursuing a high school diploma or GED to enroll in an approved driver education course, which consists of 30 hours of classroom time and six hours of driving time, as well as an eye exam. Once completed, a student will receive a Driver’s Education Certificate, which allows them to apply for a Level 1 permit. Under Level 1, a driver must be 15-17 years old, must drive only when supervised — between 5 a.m. and 9 p.m. — for the first six months. The use of mobile devices is prohibited. Once these requirements are met, a Level 2 “limited provisional license” allows unsupervised driving from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. and to or from work. A driver must be 16-17 years old, have a limited learners permit for 12 months, have completed and logged at least 60 hours of driving, have no convictions of moving violations or seat belt/mobile phone infractions and pass an on-the-road driving test. Under the provisional license, there must be proof of liability insurance, no more than one passenger under 21 years old in the vehicle — unless they are members of the same household as the driver — and use of mobile devices is prohibited. The final step is a Level 3, which is a full provisional license. It allows unsupervised driving at any time so long as the driver is 16-17 years old, had a provision license for at least six months, has no convictions similar to those listed in Level 2, has completed and logged at least 12 hours of driving and, again, use of mobile devices is prohibited. For more information on the graduated licensing process, visit https://www.ncdot.gov/dmv/license-id/driver-licenses/new-drivers/Pages/graduated-licensing.aspx.

Here are a few important things to do through this graduated licensing process: 1) make sure you have adequate insurance coverage. See my article from Jan. 8.
2) Enforce and set the example on mobile devices. Some studies show teens whose parents drive distracted are two to four times as likely to drive distracted themselves. 3) Lay down the law — understand North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicle requirements and follow them. Your teen will be safer for it.

Fort Bragg: An American institution with a global reach

02 fORT bRAGGLast week, I was interviewed by a reporter for The Washington Times who wanted to know if I was for or against the proposed renaming of the Fort Bragg military installation. Without hesitation, I told her I felt changing the name was an ill-conceived idea and another unfortunate knee-jerk reaction to the unsavory political unrest our nation is currently experiencing. I also told the reporter she would be hard-pressed to find five people out of 100 who even knew who Braxton Bragg was, let alone know he was a general in the Confederate Army — and an unpopular general at that.

Fort Bragg has a proud and honorable history. It’s home to the 82nd Airborne Division. The renaming controversy, to many, appears to be another example of political exploitation of the ill-informed. It would undoubtedly deal a death blow to Fayetteville both emotionally and economically, stripping it of it’s one single valuable and marketable asset. Besides, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, is not the first military installation named after North Carolina’s native son Braxton Bragg, who was born in Warranton, North Carolina. In Northern California, there is an entire city named after him — Fort Bragg, California. In 1857 the U.S. military established an army post on the Mendocino Indian Reservation, and the young lieutenant in charge of that project, H. C. Gibson, named the post in honor of then-captain Braxton Bragg, whom he admired as his commanding officer in the Mexican-American War. Hence, Fort Bragg, California, est. 1857. The main highway, Route 20, entering this city of 7,500 is named Fort Bragg Road.

Bragg went on to be a general in the Army of the Confederacy from 1861-1865. He died in 1876. Even though Bragg was one of the 750,000 Confederate soldiers who fought in the Civil War, he contributed little to history or the outcome of the war.

Fort Bragg, North Carolina, was created in 1918. Forty-two years after his death. So, why did they name this military installation after Bragg? Who knows. Maybe it was because he was from North Carolina. Or, maybe it was because of Fayetteville’s close proximity to the Battle of Bentonville, which was the last Civil War skirmish Bragg participated in.

With the naming of an Army post 42 years after his death, it’s doubtful it had anything to do with elevating or advocating for antiquated Confederate values.
What’s important today is what this proud military installation means to our soldiers, our community, the nation and the world. Fort Bragg is much more than a name; it’s an institution with a global reach and humanity’s assurance that goodwill always triumphs over evil.

In a former career and for over a quarter of a century, I traveled coast to coast working and meeting tens of thousands of people in hundreds of cities and towns across America. Never, and I mean never, when I introduced myself and told them I’m from Fayetteville, North Carolina, did they not instinctively mention Fort Bragg with an enthusiastic sense of patriotism and pride. They understand that as one of the largest military bases in the country, we house and deploy the most impressive, mightiest and deadliest fighting machine on Earth. Worldwide, people know Fort Bragg. They trust Fort Bragg. They respect Fort Bragg, and our enemies fear Fort Bragg. They know that anywhere in the world, when a nation gets in trouble and dials 911, it is Fort Bragg that picks up the phone. Fort Bragg is an American icon of freedom, pride, patriotism, justice and democracy. Fort Bragg is synonymous with world security and stability.

Changing the name of the most historically significant American military installation in the world just to appease the reactions of political activists looking to make a statement is not worth debasing the spirit of North Carolina, the Fayetteville community or the patriotic pride of the millions of soldiers, veterans and their families that have called Fort Bragg their home. We can only pray that common sense prevails in this matter. After all, that’s a lot of street signs to change and birth certificates to reissue.

Thank you for reading Up & Coming Weekly.

Thanks for the memories

04 IMG 1885Can you remember life before the Corona Cooties came to town? What is your very first memory? Say it quietly to yourself in case it’s embarrassing. Take a walk down memory lane. We are going to compare what Greek mythology and medical science say about memory. Neurologists say your memories hang out in various socially distanced parts of your brain. The brain is a wad of tissues and electrical charges that weighs about 3 pounds. Some people use their brains more than others. If you are of a certain age, your memory lets you call up the cigarette slogans from a half-century ago — like “Kent with the Micronite filter refines away harsh flavor, refines away harsh taste.”

Fun fact: Kent’s Micronite filter was asbestos.

Your brain has little nerve cells called neurons that keep sending electrical charges to each other. When you experience something, the nerve cells get excited and tell their neighbors about it. These electrical charges end up in various parts of your brain to ultimately form memories. The amygdala of your brain’s temporal lobe is shaped like an almond. It attaches emotions to memories. It is the basis for the candy Almond Joy’s slogan, “Sometimes you feel like a nut. Sometimes you don’t.” Next up is the hippocampus. Despite its name, the hippocampus is not where a hippopotamus goes to get a college degree. The hippocampus converts short-term memories into long-term memories. These ship out to the neocortex, where they reside permanently until you need them. Once the neocortex is called upon to produce a memory, it promptly forgets the name of the person you just met.

All that medical stuff is a bit on the dry side. Greek mythology provides the real truth about memory. The goddess of memory is Mnemosyne. Minnie, as her posse calls her, is the reason you can remember where you were on 9-11, the day Elvis died and when UNC last beat Dook. Minnie came from sturdy stock. Her daddy was Uranus, and her mom was Gaea. They were the original heaven and Earth of mythology. Zeus took a liking to Minnie and spent nine nights with her playing house and making whoopee. Minnie got in the family way and gave birth to nonuplets, which is a fancy way of saying she had nine babies at once. These weren’t just nine ordinary babies, no sirree, Bob. These were the nine muses who inspire artists, musicians and various creative types who have found a way to make a living without working. The muses invented music, language, dance, human senses, planets and the Greek alphabet.

Minnie was a first-responder in the Underworld of the dead in Hades. She kept watch over a pool and the River Lethe in the Underworld. When a dead person showed up in the Underworld, Minnie would get them to drink from the River Lethe, which would cause them to forget their past life above ground. The Greeks believed that the dead would end up getting reincarnated. If they had not forgotten their past lives, they might try to get their stuff back from their heirs and all manner of troubles would prevail. Hence, belly up to the River Lethe and have a swig. However, and there is always a however in mythology, there was another river in Hades named after Minnie called the Mnemosyne River. Drinking from it would cause the newly dead to be able to remember all of their past life, but it kept them from being reincarnated and going through all the troubles of life again.

So, who to believe about what memory is? The neurologists or Greek mythologists? It’s all Greek to me. You should make your own decision. The idea of memory has sold more records than you can shake a stick at. Who can forget Bob Hope singing, “Thanks for the memories”? The horror of the musical “Cats” song “Memory” sung by more Miss America contestants than can be heard without nausea: “Midnight not a sound from the pavement/Has the moon lost her memory.” Dean Martin singing “Memories Are Made of This”: “The sweet, sweet memories you gave to me/You can’t beat the memories you gave to me./” Mary Hopkins belting out “Those Were the Days”: “Those were the days my friend/We thought they’d never end/We’d sing and dance forever and a day.” John Lennon’s mournful “In My Life”: “There are places I’ll remember/All my life, though some have changed/Some forever, not for better/Some have gone, and some remain/With lovers and friends I still can recall /Some are dead, and some are living/In my life I’ve loved them all.” The “Whiffenpoof” song has the immortal lyrics: “We will serenade our Louie while life and voice shall last/Then we’ll pass and be forgotten with the rest/We are poor little lambs who have lost our way/Baa, baa, baa.”

The best song ever written about memory comes from Randy Newman, a little ditty called “Potholes.” Randy is pondering his fading memory due to aging and is thankful for it. Not only does he forget the good stuff, but more importantly, he forgets the bad stuff. He wrote: “God bless the potholes/Down on Memory Lane/Everything that happens to me now/Is consigned to oblivion by my brain.”

What was the point of this column?
I forget.

 

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