All about ideas…

Archive for the ‘race’ Category

Movie Review: 22 July

leave a comment »

No one can forget the horrific slaughter of Norwegian children by an armed nationalist on July 22, 2011, by a White Nationalist.


Now Netflix has produced a film, 22 July, portraying the slaughter of 68 children and injuring 110 more. For me, personally, it was difficult to watch the film dispassionately, separating script, screen play, acting, and direction from the factual basis of the film.

I admit to my own bias: I find xenophobia abhorrent, anti-Christian, and just plain evil. I keep thinking about what my parents generation fought for in WWII. They fought not only against Nazism & Japanese incursions, but against the whole idea of Ethnic Superiority, whether it was White Superiority in Europe or Japanese Superiority in Asia.

Watching 22 July is a deeply emotional film that lays out, in stark contrast, the difference between those who wish to divide on the basis of race, religion or country of origin, and those who choose to bring everyone together based on a belief in our shared humanity. A belief that inspired the world with this sentence from the American Declaration of Independence:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Although the United States has never fully accepted this value, as a nation we have progressively worked towards that goal. That is what makes this film so personally emotional for many of us. The slaughtered children were working for a more inclusive world that accepted all people as human beings, deserving of the same rights. But their murderer did not see the world, or humans, in the same way. He saw them as products of his ideological enemies.


Anders Behring Breivik (Anders Danielsen Lie), like all racial and ethnic Nationalists that came before him, stretching back eons in history, truly believed the rhetoric that the “other” was coming to destroy their world, their way of life, their security. That myth, as documented by historians, perpetuated by tribal leaders or a Chief to drum up support to degrade another tribe’s humanity in order to justify invasion and slaughter or just to shore up the tribe’s support for him, goes back thousands of years to mankind’s early tribes. What better way to cement a leader’s position and popularity than to drum up a war against a supposed enemy? (For reference, in the rhetorical battle in the 12th C. between the two Popes, one of them used this same tactic to win. He created the Crusades by claiming the Muslims were the enemy of Christianity and called on all Christian nations to wage a Holy War against Islam in the name of Jesus Christ. As a result, he won the rhetorical battle for Pope.)

Al that said, it does not excuse what Anders did in murdering and injuring so many innocent children…but it partially explains why he did it. He listened and accepted what those on the radical right were (and still are) preaching. He is the product of their fevered quest for power.

Whether or not those on the far right, in the EU or the US or Middle East or elsewhere in the world, actually believe what the say is up for debate, but what is not debatable is that millions of people, like Anders, believe them.


But what makes it difficult to review this film is because of the deeply emotional subject matter. Overall, the film deals with the subject of the murders and xenophobia fairly but perhaps too lightly. It is almost too surface skimming rather than in-depth, never going to deeply into the horrors and life or death struggles those children and their families endured. Yet, the story itself, so close in our collective Amemory, certainly yields more than enough emotion.


After watching this film, however surface-level the subject matter was treated, this is a film that should be watched. Because regardless of the Far Right, Alt-Right, Trumpists, Steve Bannons and Steve Millers, and ISIS groups, we must find a way back to accepting our common humanity. Moreover, America must lead the way as we historically have done for the last 75 years. This film shows us exactly why.

Written by Valerie Curl

October 12, 2018 at 9:12 PM

Fulfilling the Dream of America

leave a comment »


As a pragmatic Democratic, I don’t care if your hail from the left, right or sideways. What I do care about it is my country and her people. For decades, we’ve accepted policies that put Wall St and capital over workers; that bailed out Wall St but neglected workers and home owners; that penalized bit players while letting the world-class con artists go free; that put large corporations ahead of average working middle and working class people and small businesses.

It’s time to change all that.

But none of that will change until the GOP is entirely, in every state and Congress. are voted out of office. As during the Great Depression, they must be shown that their ideas, policies and legislation does not support average working families but puts Wall St, large corporations, and the very wealthy ahead at the forefront of their policy decisions. It doesn’t have to be this way. What American workers suffer now, from stagnant wages to bankrupting health care costs to financially destructive education costs, at a time when education is vitally important to succeed, are the direct result of policies put in place, primarily by Republicans.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

When Teddy Roosevelt (R-NY) entered the NY State House, he looked around and saw legislation and legislators being bought or bribed. He wrote in his autobiography that legislators succumbed to accepting money from those companies seeking to influence legislation in their own favor or legislators blackmailing companies via their votes that could negatively affect those companies. Although many companies complained about the blackmail, few knew how to fight it. Nevertheless, all of the legislative process was to the benefit of the politicians and not the people.

TR had a strong ethical nature. Although he grew up physically weak, he developed an ideal of what it meant to be strong…not just physically but also intellectually and morally. As a candidate for VP, many thought he would come round to their corporate thinking. However, as president, he proved them wrong. TR was a strong believer in capitalism, but he recognized that unless capital (ie Wall St & large investors today) was restrained from its worst impulses, the masses would rise up to destroy capitalism.

As a result, he pushed through measures in Congress that restrained unbridled capitalism and brought not only transparency to elected officials campaign finances but also measures to prohibit the kinds of bribery he saw as a NY legislator. He sought a fair capitalism that worked for employees as well as owners.

Some thirty years later, TR’s cousin, FDR assumed the role as the President of the US during the worst economic crises of the 20th Century, but it had been preceded by numerous equally bad crises during the previous century of unbridled capitalism. FDR actually was far from what today is considered left-wing. He was a confirmed capitalist, but he recognized as did his cousin, TR, that when the financial rules of the road were dismantled, chaos reigns. At the height of the Great Recession, economist El-Erian, then the Chief Economist of PIMCO, wrote that financial rules are as important as highway rules of the road. That without those rules, chaos would ensue as drivers would push others off into ditches, cause crashes, and drive recklessly in pursuit of their own agendas, regardless of the havoc they caused.

When you set back or view from forty thousand feet, you can see his advice works throughout an economy. The rules of the road allow everyone to get to their own chosen destination.

What FDR did….

FDR, as a result of the unbridled speculation of Wall St that caused he Great Depression (and the recent Great Recession), worked hard to break to choke hold that Wall St and wealthy capital had over the economy. He instituted every program he thought might help to put the economy back on its feet again. Some worked, as in the Ag Dept farming policies, and some failed. But through it all he maintained that whatever was good for average workers would benefit America as a whole and maintain capitalism as a founding principle of the US.

While FDR policies didn’t save the country…

His policies did prevent the economy from becoming worse. Gradually, the bread lines shortened and the number of teens, like my own father, riding the rails diminished. People found work again, even if they were jobs the government created like the magnificent public works projects that still serve the nation.

WWII highlighted the need for Equality

Jump forward to the Truman Administration. Accepting the founding principle that “All men are created equal”, Truman fully integrated the Armed Forces, perhaps because he recognized the tremendous efforts and sacrifices non-whites showed during WWII. His bravery caused all non-white groups to say, “Hey, we’re Americans too and deserving of equal rights”, from voting to where to live to the places we can eat and our job opportunities.

Republican President Eisenhower accepted that challenge.

I don’t know Eisenhower’s personal views on Civil Rights. However, given his WWII experience, it might be fair to say he saw the exceptional bravery of all minorities in fighting against foes who would have slaughtered them solely based on their ethnicity or religion or culture. Possibly as a result of that experience, he and the military command tried to change the racial, ethnic and religious divides that plagued the United States.

What it was like in the Deep South…

In the 1950s, a white person could not drive down a primary Black community street in a Southern town without seeing conversations suddenly stop and children freezing in place, with fear written on everyone’s faces. Their fear was beyond palpable. It reflected their reality: that at any moment any one of them could or would be strung up on a tree branch to die simply because of the color of their skin and the underlying desire for white supremacy.

White people had any number of excuses for their long-held belief that they were superior: Blacks were lazy, even though they worked 12 to 14 hours a day;  Blacks had inherent diseases, a common myth of the “other” to incite fear; Blacks cheated and stole, although no more true than for Whites; Blacks were undependable and drunkards, another common myth, specifically designed to denigrate them; and perhaps worst of all, Blacks were of lesser intelligence, even though their educations and educational opportunities were all too often undeniably inferior. All of these myths and delusions were handed down from one generation to the next, with few questioning them.

Thus the racism and xenophobia continued….

In the 1970s, long after the Civil Right Amendment was ratified, this still held true in primarily Southern towns and military bases. In Ft Knox, KY, in 1969, Black children were still segregated and sent to different schools from white children, although they lived in the same military housing complexes, just doors away from each other. And where white children who befriended neighboring Black children were labeled as traitors and much worse.

Both Nixon and Reagan could have stopped the racism and xenophobia, had they chosen. But both chose political expediency over moral values. Picking up lingering Dixiecrat and George Wallace voters to win was more important than the belief that “all men (i.e. people) are created equal.”

Now fast forward to the 2000s. The GOP, especially under the influence of Newt Gingrich took full advantage of these splits in America to promote himself, regardless of the harm he caused to the Republic.

Regardless of Nixon’s and then Reagan’s “Southern White strategy” that specifically sought to drive Dixiecrat Democrats into the Republican party – a feat it did extremely well after the Johnson’s Civil Rights Act and the widespread expansion across America of Movement Conservatism after the Goldwater presidential loss which took much of its ideology from John Birchers – the election of Newt Gingrich to Speaker of the House drove a spike into the heart of reality. As Speaker, Gingrich proclaimed that anyone who was not Republican was an enemy of the people; that all Democrats were communists who aligned with the USSR; that Democrats were enemies of the nation, and that no malignant name for Democrats was beyond the bounds. Once he became Speaker, he proceeded to end every office that provided the House with accurate scientific and government data because those non-partisan adjunct committees did not suit his own partisan grasp for power. As a result of that and other power grabs, he left House legislators without institutional knowledge. Thus, information was outsourced to lobbyists.

About the same time, Mitch McConnell, now the Senate Republican Leader, began an all out drive to overturn all of TR’s rulings on transparency and fairness in political donations. He not only sought to hide who was giving massive donations, he actively fought for the right of political, and more importantly corporate, donors to have 1st Amendment rights of free speech. This idea is totally against everything TR believed; yet, it has been accepted orthodoxy by today’s Republican party. TR would be turning over in his grave at how much McConnell betrayed his values. Mind you, it’s only been 100 years since corporations were handed any rights beyond the need of the company to manage litigation. Prior to then, the framers feared the monetary and influence power companies might use to pervert democracy in their favor and away from the rest of the people.

Reducing the power of the people.

In the 1930s, as a result of the Great Depression, FDR, via Congress, instituted a number of policies meant to help working class people. The SCOTUS at the time, also known as the Lockner Court, rejected many, if not most, of those legislative ideas. They put the wishes of corporate owners well ahead of workers. It was only after FDR lost his battle to expand the SCOTUS – and recognizing their own unpopularity – that the SCOTUS changed their rulings to allow the programs FDR put in place to be ruled Constitutional. Today, we are in this same place with a Court that for decades now has put the voice of corporations above the voices of average citizens, Yet, if you go back to read what the founders wrote, they all maintained that “corporate” power was anathema to good governance.

There are chapters upon chapters of so-called conservatives seeking to silence the voices of middle and working class people throughout the 1800s. Some succeeded, as with the Midwest demand for Silver coinage of the 1800s in order to break the strangle-hold of Wall St on farmers and small businesses. And others failed. But what must be acknowledged is that Americans, by large majorities, sought to create a better, more just and fair nation than they inherited.

Today’s Republican party chooses to unwind those hard-fought battles at every level for the sake of partisan power. The Framers understood that kind of greed and often wrote about its corrosive effects. Their letters, speeches, and newspaper articles often spoke to and align with the same concerns that Democrats raise today.

Returning to long held American values

We live in a far different world that the Framers could ever imagined. But one thing rings true from all their writings and still holds true today: all people regardless of race, creed, culture, religion, or ethnicity deserve equal rights and treatment under the law.

Lest we forget, the Declaration of Independence said: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

We must again take these words as a sacred duty to uphold for all Americans and seek to create a nation where those unalienable rights are within the grasp of every American, regardless of race, creed, ethnicity, religion, gender, or culture. If all those people were good enough for Thomas Jefferson to invite here, for James Madison to declare they needed equal protections, for John Adams to defend, they are good enough for us too.

Written by Valerie Curl

July 31, 2018 at 10:00 PM

Donald Trump is a national disaster

leave a comment »


I just finished watching the third presidential debate. Admittedly, many people will be swayed by what he said. However, any thinking person who has a modicum knowledge of economics and  national security as well as respect for all people, regardless of race, creed culture, gender or religion can upon reflection agree with him.

By and large, Trump repeated over and over that he would make America great again but without ever delving into how he would do so. On trade, he said NAFTA was bad, but the completely failed to explain how or what he would do to create better trade policies. Throughout his campaign, he has repeatedly called for isolationist trade policies which would be an economic disaster. The USA relies upon our exports for jobs and economic growth. Granted the TTP and other current proposals fail both the American people and other countries by putting too much power into the hands of major corporations – the reason Hillary Clinton does not support them – but international fair and free trade policies are needed worldwide, especially by mature economies like the US. To put it simply, US full employment cannot be supported without international trade.

On tax policy, Trump doubles down of supply side economics. His tax policy, outsourced to Steven Moore, a penultimate supply-sider who consistently ignores the demand side of the economic equation and is no economist, would increase the national deficit by trillions. Some say as much as $5 trillion. Since the financial melt down in 2007, the US has had an overabundance of supply but not enough demand. In other words, there’s plenty of product but not enough buyers. When wages are low or lowered (as has been the case since 2009 when companies lowered wages in the face of an oversupply of qualified candidates) wages, the demand side of the economic equation has gone down. If people can’t afford to buy, demand goes down regardless of the supply quantity. Thus, continuing the feed the supply side, i.e. Wall Street investors, does nothing to increase GNP (Gross National Product). The only way to increase GNP and, thus, GDP is to build up the demand side of the economic equation. Moore’s tax and economic policies, which Trump bought lock, stock and barrel, utterly fail this test.


On National Security, Trump sounded smart when when you delve into what he actually said but yet again failed to propose any solutions, he’s frightening. Does he want an all out war in the Middle East – a la the Crusades? If so, that is one sure way to push moderate Muslims into the freedom fighter camps of ISIS and the Taliban. Imagine if you will an invading force in the US (intent on stealing our national resources to pay for the invasion). Would any American stand by and let that happen, no matter how moderate they were? Of course not. The same principle applies in the Middle East. Throughout history all over the world, people have always fought against a foreign invader, even when they strongly disagreed with their own government. It would be no different in the Middle East now. Moreover, Trump and his neo-con allies have chosen to make his foreign policy about a clash of civilizations – a clash of religions much like the Crusades. And much like during the Crusades, Muslims would come together, regardless of their internal conflicts, to fight off the invaders. Smart policy, which Clinton advocated, is separating the moderates from the extremists…and backing the moderates who see a better way forward for Middle East countries than a 12th Century ideology in the 21st Century world.

Additionally, the idea of Trump denying or ignoring Putin’s spying and hacking and interference with this election shows his incredible naivety. Of course, his financial records prove, as Newsweek and other legitimate media outlets have shown, he has a huge income stake in protecting the Russian (and thus Putin) oligarchy. Do I think Trump would take his order from Putin the way Mussolini did from Hitler? I don’t know; but I’m not willing that that chance, given that Trump is all about himself and his ego and his fortune even as he sells out other and stiffs his suppliers. Trump’s entire career has been one long running steam of conning and lying and cheating others including failing to pay his suppliers. Believing him is like believing in Hitler’s promise to not to invade the restof Europe after stealing Austria.

On issues of his personal morality and how he think about woman and minorities, what more needs to be said other than that he has offended everyone with his misogynist and xenophobic mindset. Even the uber conservative Utah-based Mormon (Church of Latter Day Saints) has come out against Trump in a public statement.They consider his words and ideas…and his behavior…highly toxic. No matter how much he denies his behavior, the numbers of people coming out against him for how he has behaved and what he has done keeps growing. As a result, he’s proven himself to narcissistic megalomaniac who refuses to accept responsibility for his own behavior. In his words, everything is the fault of someone else…and he is totally innocent. That may go over well in the modern Republican conservative movement, but it doesn’t necessarily sit well with a majority of people who have been raised to believe they have to take responsibility for their own behavior.


On border control and minorities, polling shows that the list of minority voters switching from the Republican side of the ledger to the Democratic side ha gown dramatically since Trump became the Republican nominee. Beyond his polling numbers though is the fact that to implement his wall across the US Southern border and round up & deport every non-citizen (i.e. alien) would cost multiple trillions of dollars. Are you willing to agree to a major increase in your taxes to pay for it all…or are you going to shut your eyes and ears and put it on the national credit card and blame someone else for the outrageous deficit once again?

I could go on ad infinitum on the disastereous affects of Trump policies (or lack of coherent policies) but there is little  doubt that committed Trump voters will change their minds. To far too many of them, the world is made up of “us against them” which the GOP has pushed, in various and sundry dog whistles, for over 50 years.

Nevertheless, regardless of how reasonably sounding Trump came off sounding in this third debate, the fact remains that all of his ideas, from every perspective, are extraordinary expensive and a national disaster. Moreover, the fact that the national GOP supports and endorses this caricature of a human being shows the party has descended into the bowels of hell.

Clinton may not be everyone’s favorite candidate…and granted she’s been vilified and lied about by the GOP in the national media for nearly 30 years…but compared to Trump, she’s an angel. Her policies are reasonable, well-thought out, progressive, equitable, and fiscally sound. But, of course, that won’t matter to die-hard Trump supporters who choose to ignore the reality of the man and his ideas by focusing only on his fantastic rhetoric as a way out there circumstances.




Written by Valerie Curl

October 19, 2016 at 10:44 PM

Race in the headlines again.

with one comment

The new AG may have used the wrong word – “cowards” – to describe Americans when it comes to discussing race problems in America. But he wasn’t wrong in bringing the subject up for debate.

Race is still a problem in this country. Just witness the recent NY Post cartoon which garnered so much publicity.

Most white Americans, in reality, do not know how to discuss race and are not comfortable with the discussion. Race is an area of fear – just as anti-semitism was for so long.

Holder’s speech, in retrospect, may open a much needed dialog – provided, of course, that we can keep the pundits, in their search for high ratings, under control.

Written by Valerie Curl

February 20, 2009 at 2:40 AM

Simon Schama on America

leave a comment »

Simon Schama, British art and literary critic who since 1990 has written and presented more than 30 documentaries as well as such best-sellers as THE POWER OF ART and the three-volume A HISTORY OF BRITAIN, spoke to Bill Moyers tonight on Bill Moyers Journal regarding American race relations and the promise of America.

Remarking on the historic election of Barack Obama and race in America, Schama said,

Benjamin Franklin, 1750, is terrified about the Germans in Pennsylvania. For Franklin, this was going to be an empire of the free but only if you’re maybe Scots, maybe Irish or English. He wrote, of course actually, he was aware of German journalism and so on. But he fought bitterly against the possibility that the Germans would overrun Pennsylvania. The notion is: there’s always the next wave. They’re not going to be ready or right or, in some peculiar biological way, compatible with democracy. The Irish weren’t going to be compatible. The Italians weren’t going to, but time takes its own. We were talking earlier about the amazing power of education. And, you know, that has the capacity somehow magically over the generations to make all these people just fine as Americans.

The jump which we’re seeing now, however, is what Chuck Alaman in Dearborn, Michigan, says at the end of that film, talks about with great pride, says, “I’m not an Arab American. I’m an American who happens to be a Muslim. I’m as American as apple pie.” And we are seeing, if Obama’s elected, the coloring of America. And you gave me an article to read in the “Atlantic Monthly” which was sort of about how white America is ending. And I thought, yes. But am I missing something here? But what exactly is the problem?


The race problem will not go away, not least because when times are tough actually those who are, in any case, economically disadvantaged, who have less schooling, are likely to be those who are most, alas, disposable in terms of the possibility of unemployment. So we’re going to expect I think trouble in the cities. Not I think trouble like 1960s.

But you asked, of course, the historical question. That is profound. America begins with an act – and you know, I’m deeply sentimental in my enthusiasm about the beginning of the American experiment. But it begins with an act of profound bad faith. Jefferson writes the Declaration of Independence in which liberty and equality are offered as the defining principles that make you American, while he is himself a slave owner. And then the Constitution is made at the moment in which African Americans are defined as three-fifths of a human in order to give the South enough clout to perpetuate slavery.

And, you know, Lincoln’s conversion coming up to the Civil War and then during the Civil War, from someone who found it morally loathsome but pragmatically had to be kept that way, to someone who, for whatever reasons, to win the war or not, was responsible for the Emancipation Proclamation, was an enormous change.

Lincoln, simply in the end, found it unbearable to hold up his head as an American and keep that act of bad faith going. But then we had a hundred years of Jim Crow and we had the civil rights movement. So this moment, it does seem to me to finally wipe clean that original sin, that profoundly repellent act of bad faith at the very beginning.

Bill Moyers continued with:

BILL MOYERS: But one reviewer says, “I was left feeling rather chilled by Schama’s take on the U.S. and its prospects. This may be the end of an empire as we knew it. And one can only wonder what it will mean for someone like Obama to preside,” and here’s where your historical convergence arrives on the scene, “to preside over its dismantling or its transformation.”

SIMON SCHAMA: That’s the challenge. That’s typically dark European view. But it’s the challenge. You can either be – it’s an extraordinary thing, this convergence of catastrophe and euphoria. Euphoria at the president we have and the heap of trouble we’re in. Either the heap of trouble will do him in and there’ll be a terrible dark backlash of disappointed expectations, or he’ll flip it. It won’t be easy. The flipping won’t happen overnight. But he can actually turn it to an extraordinary vindication of the American experiment. I rather hope he will.

BILL MOYERS: Have you learned something about the American character that surprised you, that enables you to project where we are going as a people, the soul of America?

SIMON SCHAMA: There are moments in our history, some of the ordeals of the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, that Americans were called on to sacrifice, during the New Deal and during the Second World War. We are indeed going to go through a kind of test of that order. But in each occasion really America has emerged with an essential characteristics altered, but intact.

BILL MOYERS: And that is?

SIMON SCHAMA: I think freedom, ingenuity, and justice.

BILL MOYERS: Those you think are the bedrock of American character?

SIMON SCHAMA: I do. I do. And as I say, I think actually equality and justice were a dark joke so long as racism remained embedded in the institutional fabric of the United States. That’s changed.

Shama’s interview with Bill Moyers is a prelude to a television series premiering on BBC America next week, during the inauguration, and this upcoming book, THE AMERICAN FUTURE: A HISTORY.

Written by Valerie Curl

January 17, 2009 at 2:14 PM

The Politics of Hate

leave a comment »

I’ve written about this subject a few times, but given the recent spate of hate stories in the media and others written about by bloggers, it seems apropos to speak out on this subject again.

I’d like to say I really don’t understand racists and xenophobes. Unfortunately, I do. Psychologists says these people have such low self esteem, such a low opinion of themselves, that they need someone else – some other group – to which they can feel superior. The more those same people can objectify another person or group to make them appear less than human – less than equal – the easier it is to destroy them.
When Julius Caesar invaded Gaul, he wrote back to the people of Rome that the Gauls were totally uncivilized. Their social structure was completely inferior to Rome, in part because women were given an equal role in government and religion. Their religion permitted human sacrifice, even though Rome had been doing basically the same thing, albeit in another name, in their Games. He wrote endless dispatches to Rome, describing how inferior the Gaulish society was to Roman and how inferior the people were in comparison to Rome.

Everything he wrote was a deliberate attempt to sway the Senate and people of Rome that conquering Gaul was a good for the Roman Empire and good for the people of Gaul. So what if the Gauls were murdered, their society destroyed, and the people turned into slaves. None of these things really mattered to him as his propaganda went deeper than conquering Gaul. His dispatches to Rome were designed to elevate himself far beyond his current level of general. He desired a position of first among firsts in Roman society – something his birth ranking never allowed him. He needed to be superior…and would do whatever was necessary to succeed to that goal.
When the Roman army invaded England, they thought of and treated the Britannic Celtic tribes exactly as Caesar did the Gauls. So, when Queen rose up in revolt, it became easy, in the Roman army minds, to destroy utterly the Celtic tribes because the Celts weren’t real human beings. They were barbarians – something less than real human beings – that Rome had every right to destroy.

Several centuries later, Spanish Conquistadores still enjoyed the same superior icon_mexico1mindset of Caesar’s Roman army when they destroyed the Inca and Maya civilizations. Believing themselves superior – more human and better – they believed they had ever right to destroy, to rape, and to pillage the Native tribes they encountered.

When American frontiersmen yelled, “the only good Indian is a dead Indian,” they were doing the same thing. They de-humanized American Indians, making Native Americans into a group who were easy to slaughter with impunity and without moral or psychological consequences.

If a being is not thought of as a real human being, then killing that being has no more moral, psychological consequences than killing a deer or rabbit or moose.

It’s only when that being is thought of as having the same intrinsic human value that moral and psychological consequences arise both in the psyche and in society.

That perverted thinking which needs to feel superior to some other group still exists in the minds of far too many Americans. Moreover, it is what is at the heart of the implied threats against our President-Elect. There is still a misguided belief that because he is Black, he’s not as good as a White person. That White people are superior, even though anthropology proves this idea utterly false.

But science holds little value to people who have a deep psychological need to feel better about themselves – superior to some other group or person. In making Obama that other they dehumanize him in order to justify their hatred of him – in order to continue the ancient, mythological belief of their superiority, even when reality denies them that superiority. The claim that Obama is a Muslim terrorist holds the same irrational psychology – and symbology – as that mythological belief system which hates him because he’s Afro-American.

0512w5001Reality, instead, when compared to their deep-seated need to feel superior pushes these psychological warped beings into even more hatred. It’s as if they say to themselves: “I’m White (or Christian or whatever) so I am better than he is.” They cannot tolerate that someone whom they see as lesser than themselves has achieved more than they have. They cannot tolerate that someone whom they’ve been taught to believe as the other succeeding where they have not. They cannot tolerate feeling less than superior. So, in their psyches’ it becomes imperative to destroy that other who symbolizes their failure to succeed.

After all, in accepting the extraordinary success of someone whom they’ve always seen as a lesser being than themselves then they have to accept their own inferiority. And that sets up a psychological conundrum which they cannot accept. The only way out of that conundrum is through violence: to kill the other who represents their failure or the failure of their belief systems.

Hatred of the other has slaughtered billions of people throughout the centuries. Skin color or religion or ethnicity or gender does not constitute a greater or lesser value or a greater or lesser intelligence. It is long past time to examine our own psyches, towards the goal of accepting ourselves, our own limitations, and our own intrinsic worth. Not in comparison to others, but in comparison to ourselves and our own dreams and goals.

Written by Valerie Curl

November 18, 2008 at 1:47 PM

Race Conscienceness

leave a comment »

When I was about to enter the 4th grade, if I recall rightly after all these many years, we moved to Warner Robbins, GA, where my Dad was stationed at the Air Force Base. He was a Flight Engineer with the Strategic Air Command.

Before the new school year started, Mom took me with her to Macon, GA, to buy some new school clothes, like every other family did before the new school year began. The new school year required new clothes.

The two lane road from Warner Robbins to Macon ran fairly straight through pastures and fields of Georgia. Mom wasn’t much of a talker, especially when she was driving, so I spent my time looking out the windows at the scenery. Everywhere was green, especially the green of the grasses which I thought was nearly as tall as I was. The scenery was both beautiful and dull. Grass everywhere I looked, only broken by an occasional oak tree. Dull and uninteresting. Then my vision was captured by a lonely shack, sitting in the midst of long green fields. Even at a distance, I could see the doors and windows were missing, leaving gaping holes in a gray brown structure. It looked like something left over from the Civil War: ancient, unpainted and falling apart. But smoke rose from the chimney. The ramshackle building was occupied, I knew. People lived there…and my understanding of the South told me who. The people living in that run down house were Negroes.

I turned to my Mom, pointing out the building, and asked her why someone would live there. Without a shrug or twinge of conscience, she replied, “Because they want to.” I gaped at her but kept my mouth shut. After all, children were to be seen and not heard, I’d been taught. No child questioned the judgment of a parent. Yet in my mind and heart, I knew I’d heard a lie. It was a lie of unconcern and prejudice. My heart ached for the people who were forced to live in a home without doors and windows. Forced into such extreme poverty. I both hated hated and loved my mother at that moment. How could she not understand the wrongness of such living circumstances? How could she not empathize with the occupants? How could she be so callous?

But that’s what prejudice does to the human soul. My Mom was raised in Spokane, WA, and probably never saw an African American until she moved to the South with my Father. What she knew of “Negroes” she learned from my Father, who had been raised to believe in the precepts of what we would now understand as extreme prejudice, in Missouri, and from our White, Georgia neighbors. I was in the second grade when we moved to Georgia from Columbus, Ohio. Dad was stationed at the Air Force Base near Albany. My first memory of our house in Albany was being asked to play ball by a Black kid about my age. My brother, who was 13 months younger than I, and I went out into the front yard to throw around a baseball. As we were looking round and taking in new our surroundings, this young Black boy stepped out from between two houses just down the dusty road. He yelled at us, asking us if we wanted to play ball. His southern accent was so thick we couldn’t understand him. I yelled back, ” What?” He walked toward us onto the dirt road and yelled again, asking us if we wanted to play ball. Again, I failed to understand him, and yelled, “What?” Again he walked closer to us and yelled his question to us.

Mom came out of the door then and yelled in her “brook no questions” voice, “Get back here.” I guess she had seen us from the kitchen window. I yelled back to the young Black boy that we had to in and we ran back to the kitchen door. Mom met us at the door, scowling, and angrily stated, “You are never to play him. You could catch horrible diseases from Negroes.”

That summer while playing I often listened as my mother talked to our White neighbors. I heard that Negroes were lazy and not to be trusted. I heard they had a separate high school of their own nearby which they refused to attend and which had fallen into complete disrepair because they vandalized it. I heard that refused work and overcharged for the work they did.

I was a child and much too young to question my elders. Nevertheless, something about what I heard rang false. It didn’t feel right. In Church, I’d been taught that Jesus loved everyone, regardless of race or creed or color. Yet here I was hearing hatred. What I heard didn’t feel right from our White middle class neighbor.

One day shortly after we arrived in Albany, my Dad took a wrong turn and accidentally drove through the Negro section, of town. I remember very distinctly, even now, the picture of that afternoon. I remember how the yards were neat and clean. How their clothes were old but clean, well pressed and neat. How their houses were poor and in need of paint and thinking that if they had just a little bit more money they could fix up their houses. But I could see in their faces a sense of pride…and an extreme, stark fear of these white people driving through their neighborhood.

They stopped dead in their tracks. Not a sound was heard. Even the children stopped playing. They stood or sat quietly, as if waiting for some awful evil to assault them. No one said a word. They just watched and listened. Their fear was palpable. So, when Mom and I took that trip to Macon, I couldn’t help but feel ashamed of my Mother’s response.

Much has been made of Rev. Wright’s hateful comments this last month. And for him I feel sorry. I pity him…but I also understand the pain and anger from which his comments arise. I don’t think anyone from White America can truly understand how it felt to be treated with such hatred and animosity, and at the very least such distain.

In the 50’s and 60’s, African Americans were accepted as humans yet somehow less than human. They were less than Whites. Even as late as 1973, well known but prejudiced PhDs sought to convince the public that Blacks had smaller brains and were therefore incapable of higher intellectual thought.

So, who, under these circumstances, can blame Rev. Wright for being paranoid. His generation grew up needing paranoia just to stay alive. Who can blame him for being angry? His generation grew up feeling dispair and the hatred towards them of the White ruling class. Who can blame him for not yelling out in anger at the inequities which still exist in our society?

Look around you at work. How many African American faces do you see? You’ll see Caucasian faces and Asian faces and Middle Eastern faces, but how many African American faces?

Is prejudice truly gone from our great, melting pot of a society?

Written by Valerie Curl

April 5, 2008 at 5:24 AM

Posted in race

Tagged with

%d bloggers like this: