AFAM News bits – September 2017

“Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.”
By Euripides

“Moral Equivalency” refers to behavior of opposing sides where both can be right or both wrong or in which both can be good or both bad. Although wars have been fought over religious differences in the past, today few would argue that those who are Catholic and Protestant share a moral equivalency in that both are right depending upon one’s religious preference and it would be wrong for either to deny the other its preference. When one side is right and the other is wrong or when one side is good and the other side is bad, there is no moral equivalency. War provides the best example. Hitler set out to conquer Europe and the world and eradicate Jews and others using the rationale that Germans were the superior race and Nazism the superior governing philosophy. Millions and millions on both sides died fighting the war he started. It is self evident that there was no moral equivalency between Hitler and those who finally stopped him even though a rare few still argue that Hitler’s forces were morally equivalent to those who fought the war to oppose him. A difficulty arises when a legitimate debate exists as to what is right and what is wrong or what is good and what is bad. But when there is no such legitimate debate, the rational mind should have no difficulty making the distinction between behaviors that are morally equivalent and those that are not, which brings us to the recent words of the president of the United States regarding the rally in Charlottesville, Virgina by neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members and other white supremacists and those who supported them versus the opposition groups protesting their presence. That our president could not or would not make the distinction between these murderous and historically repugnant groups and those who opposed them and continues to act nonplussed at the reaction to his own apparent ignorance, is absolutely frightening.

In the May 2017 issue of Point of View, I wrote a piece titled, “Arroyo May be Right.” Well, Felix D. Arroyo might be right again. The good news is that the suspended Suffolk County Probate and Family Court Register has been offered the opportunity to return to his job. The bad news is that court officials have imposed onerous conditions that may lead to Arroyo rejecting the offer. His spokesperson was quoted in The Boston Globe as saying: “Their insistence on imposing conditions that aren’t provided for in the statutes are consistent with the institutional racism that register Arroyo and his staff of color experienced on a regular basis.” (August 14, 2017) Those conditions include the hiring of an assistant register and other people to fill other new management positions with the result that Arroyo’s authority would be diminished similar to what happened to the former Black president at UMass Boston who was forced by the board to accept the humiliation of having his authority usurped by a newly hired assistant or to resign. He chose the latter. Arroyo was only two years into the job and the problems he inherited evolved over decades. The nagging question is why he was suspended in the first place if additional manpower was the answer. Fortunately, the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice is investigating Arroyo’s claim that he was a target of a racially motivated attack by imbedded White courthouse employees who objected to his efforts to hire a more diverse staff, which might explain the offer by the court system to reinstate him. But the humiliating manner in which they are doing it and the suspect manner in which they are restricting the hiring for the new positions that would limit minority applicants will probably become grist for the ongoing federal investigation. Let’s hope so.

If I said it once, I’ve said it dozens of times. The renaming in 1997 of a stretch of Jersey Street to Yawkey Way, in name of racist former Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey, is an error in need of urgent correction. Much has been accomplished by current owner John Henry to erase the bad reputation the Boston Red Sox gained as the last major league baseball team to hire a Black player after Yawkey rejected both Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays and tolerated an anti-Black environment within Fenway Park that discouraged Black folks from attending Red Sox games. Yawkey Way stands as one of the last remaining symbols from that era and owner John Henry is asking that the name of the street that fans must cross to enter the stadium be changed. Good for John Henry who pointed out in a Boston Globe article that the Red Sox don’t control the naming or renaming of streets. Yet, he has forged to the front in the push to change it. (August 18, 20017)

Having always maintained a personal disdain for bullies—the schoolyard type or the presidential type—it was a comfort to watch the reaction of the white nationalist from New Hampshire who was among the demonstrators advocating white supremacy at the rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. He was seen in a documentary denouncing Jews and declaring, “a lot more people are gonna die before we’re done” in reference to the woman who was killed by the car of one of his co-demonstrators. And he was cocky. So it was nice to see him bawling like a new born baby during a television interview after he discovered he was wanted by the Charlottesville authorities on felony charges related to the rally. He could barely respond to the reporter’s questions as he whined and wiped away tears in the manner of most bullies when they have met their match.

In an August 14, 2017 editorial, The Boston Globe wrote, “Long before (President Donald) Trump, his Republican Party has maintained a sick alliance with white racism, courting racist voters with coded appeals to prejudice. Trump’s accomplishment, if you can call it that, is to force the relationship out into the open. The wink-and-nod relationship is no longer tenable. The GOP controls both the White House and Congress as the tide of extremism grows. Responsibility for countering it is theirs. Either Trump and the Republican Congress turn on their supporters now, and fight back against this surge of hate in words, actions, and policies, or they let it engulf their party, and their country.” In simpler terms, it is a case of the chickens finally coming home to roost, so let’s get history straight. The only part omitted from the editorial is that the mainstream media tolerated the Republican deception from Nixon to Trump for decades.

I applaud Merck’s Black CEO Kenneth Frazier for rising to the top of one of America’s top companies. And I applaud him for being the first business leader to quit President Trump’s business group after Trump’s awful comments on the events in Charlottesville, Virginia in which people gathered to protest a white supremacist rally by neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan and other white nationalists. But I especially applaud Kenneth Frazier for not letting his success allow him to forget who he is and where he came from as altogether too many Black folks who rise to the top feel compelled to do. He made us proud watching him stand up to the bigoted behavior of the president.

Is U.S. Attorney General Sessions planning to come for your kids, too? Black folks know what the proper response should be to the opiod crisis in America. It is the same compassionate approach that should have been used during the crack crisis and the heroin crisis and other drug crises that overwhelmed Black and Brown communities in America rather than increased prosecution and the expansion of prison facilities without any significant effort to treat addiction as a health issue. Our communities were ravaged and, in many instances, all but destroyed and most headlines relating to the scourge related to arrests. Now almost every day, prominent leaders–federal, state and local–are constantly referring to the deadly opiod crisis that has engulfed their communities and the need for a coordinated, compassionate and health oriented response. For folks of color, the response is good to see but painfully late.

In many ways, the system put in place by Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton and so many other early Americans is working just fine. The courts stumped Trump on the immigration issue. The Congress stumped him with sanctions on Russia for interfering in our elections and the media is providing a level of transparency that keeps Trump’s troublesome foibles in the forefront of the news for all to see. And we have armed force members in key positions checking Trump’s finger on the button in the black suitcase along with his warlike belligerence, as well as calling him out on his bigotry in general. And his approval ratings keep going down even among his core supporters and, no doubt, his poor ratings will be reflected in the outcome of the 2018 and 2020 elections. And the independent investigations into his chicanery and kleptocratic tendencies are ongoing and he can do little to stop them without being impeached. Whether you like him or not, agree with him or not, one thing is certain: he is providing us with the opportunity to demonstrate to the world that our democracy is alive and well. ■

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