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Day 392 – Letter to Fellow Citizens: A Dream Unfulfilled.

Day 392 – Letter to Fellow Citizens: A Dream Unfulfilled.

Image from Tumblr

Dear fellow citizens,

Last month I pledged to focus on the words of Martin Luther King in my letters, at least through April and so it is here.

I’m inspired to write today on two quotes.  Both are taken from “Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community”:

“Freedom is not won by passive acceptance of suffering. Freedom is won by a struggle against suffering.  By this measure, Negroes have not yet paid the full price for freedom.  And, whites have not yet faced the full cost of justice.”

“To live with the pretense that racism is a doctrine of a very few is to disarm us in fighting it frontally as scientifically unsound, morally repugnant and socially destructive.  The prescription for the cure rests with the accurate diagnosis of the disease.  A people who began a national life inspired by a vision of a society of brotherhood can redeem itself.  But redemption can come only through humble acknowledgement of guilt and an honest knowledge of self.”

In particular, I want to focus on the concluding words of each passage, that “whites have not yet faced the full cost of justice” and that any redemption of the nation “can only come through humble acknowledgement of guilt and honest knowledge of self.”

The reason I choose these words to focus on are many, but the proximate cause is a story I read in the Detroit News, the headline of which read: “Area blacks twice as likely to be denied home loan.”  It goes on to assert that minorities – specifically African-Americans and Latinos – are routinely denied conventional mortgage loans at rates higher than whites.  This, despite the passage of the federal Fair Housing Act fifty years ago.  While the article focused on Detroit and Lansing, the same results were found in 61 metro areas across the United States (based on research done by The Center for Investigative Reporting).  The yearlong analysis looked at 31 million records and was based on techniques used by leading academics.  The Center’s findings were independently confirmed by the Associated Press.

I was struck by this, because I recently finished “The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America” by Richard Rothstein, which chronicled how Blacks were systematically shut out of housing by not just private actors (banks, mortgage companies, housing associations, and real estate agents), but by government at all levels.  This had and continues to have devastating effects on the African-American community akin to confining Native-Americans to marginalized land on reservations.

It’s clear that the reality of that history continues unabated in many parts of our “exceptional nation.”  Yet, white America wants to deny that racism still exists at the levels it once did and, in any event, declares that the social legislation passed (largely in the 60s) has ameliorated its effects.  Congress and state legislatures are full of privileged white men calling for the dismantling of social programs and calling for the poor to work, or by God “do something” for their welfare.  Many of these programs benefit African-Americans.  Inner city schools are left to fall apart, even while Betsy DeVos wants to privatize the educational system as if that will magically fix the problem without looking/considering the very real economic and social context in which many of those African-American kids exist.

And, it’s not just housing.  The incarceration rate of Blacks is way out of proportion to their percentage of the population.  Blacks are killed, beaten and shot by police disproportionally.  Out of that rage grew the Black Lives Matter movement, but we witnessed the white backlash with “All Lives Matter” and/or “Blue Lives Matter.”  African-Americans are vastly more unemployed, underemployed and discriminated against in employment.  Witness, too, the reaction to the “take a knee” movement.  Anytime Blacks take to the streets, or push hard in social media, there’s a backlash.  Of course, it’s not couched in overt racist terminology; smart whites understand there is a price to be paid for that.  However, Trump’s campaign rhetoric and election have pulled the veil back on American racism and allowed it to slither into the open under the Alt-Right umbrella and attempt to force us to take its views as legitimate.  (Witness the efforts to get nationalist and racist speakers a forum on college campuses, or their representatives’ appearances on national news programs.  Even if for hostile questioning, it provides a legitimizing forum.)

African-American athletes are venerated – as long as they win and keep their mouths shut.  While well compensated, one has to wonder about the true feelings of some of the white owners and spectators when behind closed doors.  (Recall the comments/view of the former owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, or Marge Schott before him.  Or, more recently Jerry Richardson and Bob McNair.)  Django Unchained featured slaves fighting each other to the death.  I sometimes feel we’re watching an updated and sanitized version of that on the football fields and basketball courts of today.  And, it should tell us something about the state of affairs that for many of the athletes we see, a sports scholarship was the only way out of poverty and sub-standard social milieu.  You have to wonder how many of those kids fared who were recruited but didn’t make the NFL or NBA.  They were expendable fodder for universities and millionaire coaches.  Never mind that rather than providing them an education, schools often paid lip service to the academics and focused on money making.

“But,” say whites, “look at Barack Obama, he was elected President.  See, we’re post-racial,” or, at the very least, racism is practiced at the margins.  Really?  I recall a popular poster from the 1970s that featured Archie Bunker with the words: “You know in your heart he’s extremely right.”  While this was (intentionally) written with a double meaning, I can attest that there were a good number of whites who took it to mean that his views were accurate.  All one had to do is Google Obama opposition to view the number of racist statements, claims, posters and visuals that were made about him and his wife.  No, Archie’s views linger on.

Overt racism, while out of the shadows with Trump (and much larger than I thought) has receded to the background.  The smart ones have become more circumspect and, to use a phrase, politically correct, which is a sign of progress I guess.  But, is it really?  If many of the same views exist, but only in the privacy of our home or corporate office, how can we claim racism doesn’t exist just because no football owner in their right mind would go on ESPN and say: “Tell them niggers to stand for the national anthem.”

Of course, there are non-racist whites – a majority I would hope, but I don’t really know.  I think most of us, myself included, harbor some view that we understand as wrong.  We may be mindful and work hard at eliminating racism in our personal actions, but the fact that it lingers should make us alert to the dangers.  One indication of a post-racial world (in my in-expert opinion) would be when we truly didn’t see color as a meaningful difference.  That a first thought wasn’t he’s a Black man or a Black woman, because I’d posit that for many, that distinction sets off a cascade of thoughts good or bad.  When we categorize someone as an “other,” there is always a perception of difference.  Seeing a person rather than a color representing pre-conceived notions would be a good indicator I think.

Some whites opine that reverse racism exists too.  Perhaps, but to a degree, it is guilt by association.  And, whereas much white racism is driven by historical prejudices and stereotypes passed down generation to generation and very real historical discrimination of the most hateful kind, the same can’t be said of African-Americans.  I think some of those views are themselves the result of the racism Blacks have faced and continue to face.  It doesn’t make it right, but it’s understandable.

Another refrain heard is that: “I’m not racist, so why should I have to feel guilty (white guilt), or have my tax dollars used to help African-Americans?”  Or: “Slavery ended over 150 years ago, I wasn’t alive then and I wasn’t alive in the 1950s and 60s, so why am I being punished?”  Followed by any number of complaints about forced desegregation, preferential treatment in hiring or college admissions, quotas, etc.

All of these are fair questions, however we, as the saying goes, must atone for the sins of our fathers and the sins of our father’s fathers as far back as this nation goes.  This is the ugly debt they left us.  This country enshrined slavery into its Constitution.  Blacks in the South, despite the Civil War and the 13th and 14th Amendments, weren’t afforded the right to vote and, theoretically, live were they wanted to until the mid-1960s.  They weren’t allowed to inter-marry until the Loving decision in 1967.  And, as I started out saying, they still suffer collectively simply for being Black.  Significantly, this country, not just the southern states, accrued great national and personal wealth from almost 150 years of free slave labor.  That wealth diffused itself throughout society and, in many personal cases, was handed down and expanded from generation to generation – i.e., inherited.  And, finally, there is a privilege to being white that goes unnoticed by us.  It’s like a fish in the water being unaware it’s in the water. It’s just an ever present feature of life.  Given the attitudes of many white Americans, think of how differently you are perceived when walking through the front door of a store than a Black man.  You would never be aware of that, but it’s there – maybe not everywhere, but in enough places it matters.  Or, think of how different a white motorist might be treated than a black one when pulled over in any large metropolitan area.  Again, if you were the white driver, you’d never be aware.

Martin Luther King, in his 1968 speech beginning the Poor People’s Campaign (for all poor Americans I might add) put it this way:

“At the very time that America refused to give the Negro any land, through an act of Congress our government was giving away millions of acres of land in the west and Midwest, which meant it was willing to undergird its white peasants from Europe with an economic floor.  But not only did they give the land, they built land grant colleges with government money to teach them how to farm.  Not only that, they provided county agents to further their expertise in farming.  Not only that, they provided interest rates in order to mechanize their farms.  Not only that, today these people are receiving millions of dollars in subsidies not to farm and they are the very people telling the Black man that he needs to lift himself up by his own bootstraps.  This is what we’re faced with and this is the reality.  Now, when we come to Washington in this campaign we are coming to get our check!”

Martin Luther King never made it to Washington, he was assassinated not too long after giving this speech.

So, here we are, fifty years later and a dream still unfulfilled.  We, white America, must face the full cost of justice.  We must acknowledge our guilt and we must be honest with ourselves.  Only then is our national redemption possible and the chance to realize King’s dream for America.

Sincerely,

Scot A. Reynolds

And Letters2Trump

Day 391 – Letter to Fellow Americans: Are You Feeling the Love From Donny T? Yes? No? Bleh?

Day 391 – Letter to Fellow Americans: Are You Feeling the Love From Donny T? Yes? No? Bleh?

Image from Across the Margin

Dear fellow Americans,

Happy Valentine’s Day!  We wonder how many of you are feeling the love from President Trump? In honor of the day, we made a list (nowhere near complete) of those who might be feeling it and those who are probably not.

Feeling the love

Oil and gas companies:  got a nice permit to drill in the Alaskan Wilderness Refuge and approval to drill offshore along both coasts (although some states are challenging it)

Florida: got an exemption from the off shore drilling approval because the Republican governor asked for it and Trump has urged him to run for Senate next year

Scott Pruitt: Secretary of the EPA spends a great deal of our money on his always first class flights, some on charter or military planes, mostly to tout Trump’s gutting of the EPA; a few examples: $1,641 DC to NY City; $36,068 from NYC to Rome, Italy; $40,000 for a trip to Morocco to increase exports of natural gas, which does not even fall within EPA mission

The Very Rich: under the new tax code, the very rich (those who earn one million or more) will see their taxes for 2019 cut by 80%

The Wall: still in the running for the $18 billion estimate it will cost to build it

Neo Nazis: empowered by Trump’s comment that there are good people among their ranks

ICEImmigration and Customs Enforcement: arresting and deporting immigrants at twice the rate of the previous administration

Ex Sheriff Arpaio: pardoned by Trump for his conviction of criminal contempt, and running for Senate

Vladimir Putin: since Trump has said that he believes Putin’s denials about meddling in our 2016 election, in spite of all the evidence that proves it, and has avoided putting the sanctions against Russia into place that Congress required him to do last summer, Putin can and will continue to undermine our democracy

Not feeling the love

Native American tribes: including the Hopi, Navajo, Ute, and Zuni who call the Bears Ears Monument sacred and who are seeing the lands which contain ancient artifacts and  burial grounds diminished by 85%

Rob Porter’s ex wives: who claim that he assaulted them and have compelling evidence to prove it and were dismissed by Trump who defends and praises his close aide Porter as a fine man who says he is innocent

States and cities: told they will be assuming the major financial burden for Trump’s $1.5 trillion dollar infrastructure plan even as they struggle to meet their own budget needs

Jorge Garcia: Michigan husband and father of two who lived in this country for 30 law abiding, hard working years but was deported to Mexico because he came here at age 10, one year before he could qualify for DACA

Medicaid and Food Stamp: facing deep funding cuts from Trump and his allies, diminishing programs designed to help the poor, disabled, and elderly

Malcolm Jenkins, Chris Long, Torrey Smith: Philadelphia Eagles players who will not attend a traditional  meeting in the White House to honor the teams’ Super Bowl victory because Long says Trump is sexist and racist and because, as Jenkins says, there are more effective ways to advance the social justice work that representatives from all NFL teams are supporting than to attend a photo op with this president

Transgender members of the military: banned by Trump from serving their country (ban has been put on hold by members of the judiciary)

Believers in climate change (a.k.a. believers in science): as a candidate Trump said climate change is a hoax; as president he has indicated that it is not real- as in “why would we be getting so much cold weather if there is global warming”

The Truth, the Constitution, our democracy: all under attack by this president

So, on this Valentine’s Day, 2018, may we all have someone who loves us, may we exhibit individual acts of kindness and grace, and may we continue to RESIST Donald Trump and his allies.

Sincerely,

Trudy J Schulze, Joseph R Schulze

And Letters2Trump

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 389 – The President and the Serial Abuser…A Tale of Predictably Misplaced Loyalty.

Day 389 – The President and the Serial Abuser…A Tale of Predictably Misplaced Loyalty.

Photograph from Democracy Now

Mr. President,

In light of the most recent news that has come from the White House concerning Rob Porter’s domestic abuse allegations, I want to ask you whether your sick puppy comment isn’t a little too late?

Last week you praised Porter and emphasized his claims of innocence without any mention of his two ex-wives—his alleged victims. So which is it? Sick puppy or does he fall under that category of misunderstood fellow who’s a very nice person just like some of the neo-Nazis who marched in Charlottesville?

Your back and forth on issues is perplexing and I can only guess that you take a certain stance—typically the wrong one—because you have your goons whispering in your ear and you’re just not very bright (regardless of your claims of being a stable genius).

Do you know how many women are abused by an intimate partner? According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, more than 35 percent of women in the United States have been physically abused by an intimate partner at some point in their lives.

I want you to take a look at this PDF which list the statistics of domestic violence for both men and women. Take the time to read it tonight. Think it over because domestic violence doesn’t discriminate. Rob Porter seemed like a nice enough fellow, yet he gave his first wife a black eye.

And while we’re on this topic, I hope you recognize that how you’ve humiliated the First Lady also falls under abuse. I hope she comes to her senses, pack her bags and sues you for divorce.

Sincerely,

Letters2Trump

Day 388 – Letter to Those Who Have Recently Learned that Someone They Respect Has Been Accused of Terrible Things: What Not to Say.

Day 388 – Letter to Those Who Have Recently Learned that Someone They Respect Has Been Accused of Terrible Things: What Not to Say.

Image from Vox

Dear newly aware,

At some point in our lives, we will all have to deal with the unfortunate and uncomfortable situation of learning that someone we love and admire or respect has been accused of doing terrible things. For many of us, this moment occurred when someone we admired fell from grace, whether it was Bill Cosby or Louis CK or Al Franken. For others, we’ve had to deal with learning that a parent or loved one has done terrible things. For all of us, it would be timely to learn what to do and what not to do.

As has been his M.O. throughout the last year (and throughout his entire life), President Trump has shown us exactly what NOT to do or say. When discussing disgraced top aide Rob Porter, who is credibly accused of having physically and emotionally abused his two ex-wives and a former girlfriend, President Trump made the following statement:

The President then tweeted:

So, as a Public Service Announcement of what NOT to say, we offer the following tutorial:

Instead of saying this: “We wish him well; he worked very hard. We found out about it recently, and I was surprised by it, but we certainly wish him well, and it’s a tough time for him.”

SAY THIS: “For everybody asking, I know and like [him]. I won’t defend him. This is inexcusable and he needs to address it.”

Instead of saying this: “He did a very good job when he was in the White House, and we hope he has a wonderful career, and he will have a great career ahead of him. But it was very sad when we heard about it, and certainly he’s also very sad now.”

SAY THIS:He wielded his power with women in messed-up ways; I could couch this with heartwarming stories of our friendship and what a great [person] he is, but that’s totally irrelevant, isn’t it? Yes, it is.”

Instead of saying this: “But it was very sad when we heard about it, and certainly he’s also very sad now.”

SAY THIS:  “The only people that matter right now are the victims. They are victims, and they’re victims because of something he did.”

Instead of saying this: “He also, as you probably know, says he’s innocent, and I think you have to remember that. He said very strongly yesterday that he’s innocent, so you have to talk to him about that.”

SAY THIS:I believe the allegations…are true, and I stand behind the women that made them.”

Instead of saying this: “We absolutely wish him well. He did a very good job when he was at the White House.”

SAY THIS: “It’s vital that people are held accountable for their actions, no matter who they are. We need to be better. We will better. I can’t [expletive] wait to be better.”

And finally, instead of saying this: “People’s lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. Some are true and some are false. Some are old and some are new. There is no recovery for someone falsely accused – life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?”

SAY THIS: “Misogyny is a cancer. Harassment and abuse are that cancer metastasizing and going untreated. Stories like this being reported and printed are the first steps toward a cure.”

TL;DR: If your loved ones or those you respect and admire have been accused of misconduct, do not, under any circumstance, say anything that would ever come out of the president’s mouth. He is the prime example of what never to do or say.

In summary: We have to be better. We need to be better. WE MUST BE BETTER. We can’t [expletive] wait any longer to be better.

Sincerely,

Letters2Trump

P.S. Special thanks to Sarah Silverman, Michael Ian Black, Adam Horovitz, and Michael Schur.

Day 366 – We Persisted, Mr. President, Despite and in Defiance of You.

Day 366 – We Persisted, Mr. President, Despite and in Defiance of You.

Photograph by Cajsa Lilliehook

Mr. President,

One year. One full year has passed. On January 20, 2017, what many of us forward-thinkers were convinced was just a bad dream became reality. We were so sure that another major glass ceiling was going to shatter: a woman was going to hold among the most powerful seats in the entire world. Instead, someone we felt was unelectable became the president of the United States.

Yet it was not merely that a female was not sitting in the Oval Office. It was that a misogynist, accused of sexual assault, was holding that position. And worse, a known misogynist, accused of sexual assault.  It felt like rock bottom, but we also knew it was only the beginning. It would get worse. America was changing for the worse.

But the very next day, women across this country refused to allow this change to happen. They (and so many men of like-minded equality) took to the streets of cities around the country, and even the world, to show you, Mr. President, that we will not turn a blind eye to your crimes, nor will we be silenced when it comes to our beliefs, rights, or ideas.

And that was only the beginning.

Among the most powerful voices have been the sexual assault survivors bringing to light the crimes of their aggressors. Over and over we are seeing the strength of women as they come forward and expose those wrongfully protected.

As I watch the Larry Nassar case unfold, I am astounded, just astounded, by the stories of these women. Nassar’s acceptance of using his power to abuse young people is absolutely disgusting.

While I, of course, wish that none of these horrifying incidents had ever happened, I am thankful to these women for their courage to speak out. As Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman said in her statement in court, “I have both power and voice, and I am only just beginning to use them. All these brave women have power, and we will use our voices to make sure you get what you deserve.” And I believe that part of what helped many trust her voice was because of you. Seeing you take the oath was rock bottom. You were the infamous last straw.

So on this notorious anniversary, we once again commit. Momentum is growing to finally reach the respect and equality that is needed and deserved. I believe in the strength of my fellow women, and I believe in the strength of the men who support them.

America is watching. America is listening. America is changing.  Because we all know that nevertheless, she persisted.

Sincerely,

Letters2Trump

 

Day 362 – Letter to Fellow Citizens: Yesterday Was Not Just a Holiday. It Was a Reminder of the Work Yet To Do in the Name of Justice and Equality. It is a Long Road Ahead.

Day 362 – Letter to Fellow Citizens: Yesterday Was Not Just a Holiday. It Was a Reminder of the Work Yet To Do in the Name of Justice and Equality. It is a Long Road Ahead.

Image from Time

Dear Fellow Citizens,

Yesterday was the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and this coming April 4 will mark the 50th year since his assassination.  As Bono sang in “Pride,” the shots rang out in the Memphis sky and the bullets took his life, but they could not take his pride.  Indeed.  Bono pleaded as many probably did at the time: “In the name of love, what more in the name of love?”

As part of a larger effort on my part to understand and practice non-violent resistance, I recently listened to Dr. King’s April 4, 1967 speech: “Beyond Vietnam” wherein he addresses the Vietnam situation and the triple evils of racism, extreme materialism (including a vast inequality in wealth) and militarism.  And, I’m mostly through his last book: “Where Do We Go From Here?”  I’ve never before listened to his speeches or read his words – outside of a few items in college – and I’m the lesser man for it.  Or, perhaps life had to age me before his words, analysis and vision took hold, and take hold they have.  I’m in saddened awe of what he was and what we, as a nation lost, the day he was gunned down.

In honor of him, I plan on the letters I write through April to be centered on his words, his analysis and his vision.  As we continue to assess the Trump presidency and the harm it has done to our institutions and nation (although, I really believe a more accurate description is that Trump has exposed our nation for what it largely is), I thought I’d start with this passage that especially resonates:

“The step backward has a new name today.  It is called the “white backlash.”  But the white backlash is nothing new.  It is the surfacing of old prejudices, hostilities and ambivalences that have always been there…[t]he white backlash of today is rooted in the same problem that has characterized America ever since the black man landed on the shores of this nation.  The white backlash is an expression of the same vacillations, the same search for rationalizations, the same lack of commitment that have always characterized white America on the question of race.”

We see this white backlash reflected in subtle and not so subtle ways in the Trump era.  “Make America Great Again” rings a certain bell for white Americans.  It signals a potential return to more “white” immigrants.  Trump himself stated as much with his “shit-hole countries” comment in regards to immigration patterns.  No white American called them “shit-hole countries” when black Africans were being hauled across the seas to work the plantations of the south.  Those countries supplied the forced labor that provided the economic growth of this country.  The wealth of white America was largely the result of slave labor from those “shit-hole countries.”  Great again for whom?

We see too the white backlash represented in efforts to suppress the vote, which disproportionally impacts people of color.  This effort is lauded by elected leaders of the Republican Party and not just some wild faction.  We see it with efforts to chop the budgets for all the services and agencies that often supply help to the disenfranchised, whose ranks again are disproportionally filled by blacks and other people of color.

We see the white backlash in the militarization of our police and the way so many blacks have been killed and murdered by those who are supposed to protect and serve.  We see it in the reaction to the Black Lives Matter movement and the kneeling protests started by a black athlete.

Whenever the negro/black/African-American people “get uppity” and demand their share beyond what white America deems is their lot, we have white backlash.

Sadly, the words of Martin Luther King Jr. are still descriptive of much of our nation.  I was hoping his words would sound musty and archaic – words that described a time long gone by, but no.  Most decidedly, no.  “What more in the name of love?”  It’s time to stand again beside the banner of freedom and protest, fight and pursue equality in more than token handouts.  It’s time for white America to face its history and its present and make amends until we can all sing: No more in the name of love.  No more.

Thank you Martin Luther King Jr.  Thank you for your sacrifice, your vision, and your hope.  May your death not have been in vain.

Sincerely,

Scot Reynolds, Attorney

and Letters2Trump

 

 

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