America’s Twin Maladies (Neither is Covid.)

21

Historically, and presently, the United States has suffered and suffers today from two problems that can far more easily be solved than the problem of ending the Covid-19 pandemic, with all its variations. But their solutions require several public actions that have never been demonstrated by Americans–foresight and clear rationality.

America is clouded by irrational refusal to accept what is necessary in order to solve what is mandatory. Our future demands that we solve these two essential problems, yet our foolish and myopic, even retro, attitudes result in a failure to enter the 21st Century with other advanced nations. Rather than leading the world, we are becoming the world’s laughing stock.

What are the two principal problems that pevent us from moving forward, becoming a land of Middle Class workers and farmers, a land with fine public schools, universities with incredible advances and the best roads, streets bridges and interstate transportation in the world? What keeps us from the best national hospital system anywhere in the world, and leaves us, instead, with a patched and scrambled system of good hospitals and bad hospitals, with the only access to care for masses of Americans coming from emergency rooms? The two big problems are well known and, although easily solvable, fall victime to a faulty Constitution in practice, one devised by some of the greatest minds, thank God, ever assembled to create a system of government.

The two problems are not directly associated. But they are equally as damaging. The first is race relations. The second is guns. The first has damaged the country so subtly while being right in our faces every day, that we don’t even understand what it has done. Nor do we understand how it has been used to ruin our Democracy. First, we will take up race relations. Then we will take up guns in aother article

But, briefly, the second, guns in the hands of hundreds of millions of Americans, is the most foolish and reckless privelege we ever created as American society matured. Civilized people do not need hand guns or automatic weapons. If citizens do not have automatic weapons, police will not need them, nor tanks, nor mounted machine guns or other military type weapons. There is an easier solution for the problem of guns, which we shall discuss in the next episode.

But firstr, we must decide whether we wish to be a society of haters, vicious killers, avengers–dangerous and pathetically, constantly, agitated, or whether we will return to raising children, educating society, enjoying leisure…including participatory sports…building homes, creating personal wealth, offering services to others, and creating and accumulating national wealth that can be shared with others around the globe, reducing the need for strife and the transit of millions from one country to another. We have finally reached a point in society where we cannot avoid looking at our responsibilities around the world. If we do, many, many millions of Americans will eventually die. If we help now, we will make minimal sacrifices. But we cannot help others until we have the United States situated properly.

Race Relations

The history of the United States is actually pretty simple, straightforward, as we like to think of Americans ourselves. We started a country and early on, during the slave era, which ended in the late 19th Century in most places, we allowed slavery. In some states, that slavery continued and became a source of enormous wealth for some individuals. But the system was, of course, inhumane, despotic, cruel, even horrific. So we did away with it but only through literal violent confrontation. It was,at that point, that we made our first mistake on race relations.

We needed to take these huge landowners, multi-millionaires of their day, and cite them, at the very least, for what they were: autocratic, cruel, hateful (in general) category of Americans largely to be despised, and then, hopefully to be forgiven and regenerated as normal citizens. But we did not. We allowed the richest slaveowners to lie to the average American peasant-farmer in the South, telling them that this was their battle. It was not.

The plantation owners pitted Black men, deliberately kept ignorant and subservient, for the benefit of the plantations, against the average, almost serf-like Southern citizen,(in a totally rural, economy dominated by huge landowners) creating resentment, hatred, feelings of superiority, and actual menace against African-Americans. The result was not only a feeling that Blacks were second class citizens, but a deliberate and successful attempt to make them and keep them as a secondary class. It was easy to do it.

They were Black. that is, their skin was a different, darker color. For the average ignorant Southern farmer or resident of small, impoverished southern villages, it was easy. Just look for someone whose skin was darker. You didn’t need to be an ethnologist. Just a dumb, ignorant, often lazy and always resentful dirt farmer who didn’t understand that his poverty was caused by hugely wealthy people owning everything, which they had just destroyed and made worthless in a futile attempt to maintain slavery, which the rest of the world had rejected or was in the process of rejecting as totally unacceptable.

White Americans have long been influenced by peer pressure, by the violent actions of some racist pigs and thugs, and by their own economic advancement–against the power of big corporations–or even by the general lack of goodwill on the part of many neighbors who grouped together with not the best of intentions, but , if not deliberate malice, then feelings of self-protection and self-interest (not wanting to have their children associate with Black students, not wanting inter-marriage, but mostly not wanting poorer families into their family.) Blacks have never had economic equality, and have thus always been seen as bringing a lower economic class–even though that was often the last thing caucasian families would admit–to a White family. That attitude has changed in recent years as African-Americans have risen through education to the top ranks of government, military and corporate enterprises. But the reality has not changed. Blacks are still, on the whole, an economically and educationally deprived sub-society in the United States.

We need to change that. And we need to do it by really–not just verbally,not just faintly, not partially, not superficially–changing society. Just a few simple examples…and be prepared…they are expensive. First, we need to create a sub-department of the SBA to focus on developing Black-owned businesses in Black neighborhoods. And we need to stay with them for the normal period that small businesses require–about 5 years.

We need to give the more aggressive young Black men something to do besides organizing gangs. Not that they should not go to prison. They should. We have no problem with that, do we? We are very good…the best in the world…at putting young Black men in prison. That should tell you something. Many of these young Black men are no different from Colin Powell or Cory Booker. The only difference was their circumstances, and luck. They are just as intelligent, just as ambitious, but one of the hundreds of obstacles that did not stop Powell or Booker smacked them in the face and they succumbed. Poverty is often intractable. Poverty and generational ignorance makes upward mobility almost impossible.

Socially, we have come to accept African-Americans as equals. That is, the majority of Americans see a Black man and a White woman in a romantic relationship as a normal, routine thing. So, why the sudden, one generation, difference? Economics. If you don’t want P.Diddy (I’ve heard that name and I think he’s a rapper) or let’s say, Michael Jordan (worth about $200 million, at my last look, and beloved by many of all races) in your family, most people would say that you are being short sighted. Some would call you a plain, damned fool.

But, while we admire success, most of us would rather have more Black engineers than football receivers and more physicians than Black quarterbacks or shortstops, more professors and scienists than athletes. The more often your next door neighbor is the owner of a small insurance firm than a scout for the Yankees, the sooner we will all integrate and end racism. But that is our problem and we must invest billions on billions–a hard pill to swallow for White Americans–to bootstrap the tens of millions of African Americans we can educate, raise and assimilate into our national economic commonweal.

We have often gone in completely the opposite direction in our efforts to make the problems better. And we have even been led by some in the Black community with their own axes to grind. We should change our NCAA rules to make policies stricter for athletic scholarhips. We should not pay amateur athletes for playing sports while in college. They shouldn’t be going to college to play sports. They should be going to college for an education. Everything else should be secondary.

In this country, in every state, almost without exception, the highest paid state government employee is the state university football or basketball coach. Not the chancellor or the president of the university, but the athletic coach of the favorite sport of that state. In other words, the bumpkins make the rules. The jocks who would not be let into the room during an important discussion of policy are now setting the rules for the economics of higher education. Does anyone see a problem there that might reduce the eventual value of a higher degree in the U.S. system, if we turn our educational insitutions into places of minor-league sports development rather than places to develop philosophy, history, science and the arts?

The answer is simple, not complicated, but it is long and very specific. We have seen the effects of “charter schools” or to be even more specific, specialized schools that teach college preparatory curricula or specialized technical, scientific, so-called “stem” curricula. Some have had mixed success but many have been very successful. We recall the huge success that Marva Collins of Chicago had many years ago, and subsequent adaptations of her program over the year in educating Black youths and the very high rate of college admissions in which those efforts resulted. That can be done again, or expanded upon, as it is being done now, and an even greater effort made to accelerate the results. We must do this to bring Black incomes up to the level of White incomes.

This brings me to the “what about me” alternative argument. In other words, why do this for young Black men, who often seem undisciplined, lazy or unteachable. Well, the fact is that this simply isn’t true. Every individual has separate learning abilities. But when you create an entire society which you diminish in every way…opportunity, education, income, living standards, even our expectations…then, among those individuals, you will, logically, find fewer who can learn as rapidly as others. It makes sense.

If you take someone from an underdeveloped country–and Africa is a continent that during the 18th Century and earlier had a whole continent of underdeveloped countries–then bring them to the U.S., take away all education, make it a penalty of whipping or death to even learn to read, then cast them out in society with no schools for a generation, you can’t expect them to learn as quickly as others. Two other important aspects need to be considered.

Slaves were raised to maximize their animal, physical skills. While white men were being encouraged to learn and become philosophic and professional, Black men were being raised to be able to stand and work all day in fields in broiling heat. They were raised under the very same conditions as field animals. The strong will survive and the weak will be left behind. The point of being a slave was to work like an animal for as long as you could, at whatever task you were suited to perform. You were a human being but only in the physical similarities and whatever ingenuity you could bring to the tasks you were assigned. This was not so much an attitude on the part of the masters as it was the eventual logical conclusion of the theory of a hierarchy of human beings based on race.

So, to those who say that African-Americans have been freed for 150 years and they received some bootstrapping during the Democratic Administration of Lyndon Johnson during a brief period in the late 1960s, through the 1970s, I think the facts speak for themselves.Many people who lived their educational lives during that period were educated, did become professionals, executives and teachers, even at the university level. But it was far too little and ended much too quickly. Let’s take athletics as a proxy for learning for a minute. Not all athletes develop at the same speed. Many athletes are great in elementary school and high school, only to be surpassed by many others, sometimes most other athletes by the time they are through the college years. The same is true of education.

And this is generational. If a grandfather and father are deliberately deprived of education, they still must live. To survive they must develop whatever basic skills they can in order to earn a living and feed not only themselves but their families. It does not mean that the grandson cannot learn. But people raised in ignorance and poverty and a lifee of menial work experience are not the key prospects to become college professors. There is a reason that so many doctor’s sons become doctors and so many Generals’ sons become military officers. Generations of Black men grew up with their own parlance, their own idiom, to insure their safety and because they were all trying to find a way to communicate within a delicate balance between servitude and oppression, or worse–death. Their very lives were at the whim of a slave master or a plantation owner, or in some areas, almost any white man.

We need not spend all our time wringing our hands over the fate of Black Americans. We can handle it easily and simply. Black Americans are not simply our neighbors, or our work associates or fellow participants as spectators at events. They are a specific segment of society, which, like Native Americans…another serious setback for Democracy…needs to be addressed, not just as friends (“Hi there. How ya doin?) but–at the same time–as a group, like, say, Jews or military families or Muslims or Catholics or, say, the handicapped. Black Americans are a category as well as all these things, and the category, like military families or Native Americans, needs to be addressed. Only the African-American educational problem needs to be addressed now.

It should have been done a century ago and it wasn’t and still hasn’t. It needs to be addressed today. Not tomorrow. Today. If we arwe honest with ourselves, including Blacks, we can look at Chicago and Detroit and Houston and Oakland and New York City and Compton and Newark and find millions of Americans who are poor beyond what most White people would consider poverty. Most Americans, if walked through parts of these cities would shudder, and pay any amount to get out and get back to “reality.” But, you see, this is reality to many 14 year olds who are about to embark on the rest of their lives–totally unprepared. Are some lazy and disinterested? Yes. A tiny percentage say those who have studied this issue. These are the disaffected who simply see no visible way for them to climb out of the mess they were born into. Or those who have been disaffected or oriented into a lifestyle that accepts and does not challenge the White dominance of their lives by those who want to keep them where they are because they, the dominant White majority, this segment, simply feels they can advance more and faster if Blacks do not.

This is a moral issue. Of course it is. But not all moral issues can be righted anyway. Is it fair that a Black child in some remote valley in Africa live precariously and die early of starvation? Of course not. Could we prevent it? Yes, to some degree. And, no, not to any great degree. It will still happen. So people can make the argument about American Black poverty…”the poor will alway be with us.” Some people will be unteachable. Some will fall to drugs or alcohol. Some will find athletics easier and simply not be able to bring themselves to work in a more difficult regimin–study–while running and jumping is so much easier and yet provides acclamation and reward. But it is not merely moral. It is economic. To change society for Whites we must change the economic status of Blacks. We’ve already seen that. Let’s back up a little.

We already know that the following exists. idris Elba can marry into anyone’s family that I am aware of. Sidney Poitier just died, admired and loved by millions. Thousands of elected officials, mayors, governors, attorney generals, CEOs of corporations–are Black. We elected a Black Man and his Black Wife as President and First Lady….65 million people voted for him over a White man and earlier over the most popular White woman on the planet. That President’s Black wife has long been admired by most women of all races in the U.S. as being one of the smartest, one of the most sensible, one of the best mothers, and one seen as a President herself (if she would run, which she says she would not.) No one, almost no one but perhaps the worst political troglodyte would not welcome her or one of her two daughters into their family with open arms.

So, as a society, we are already there in the acceptance of educated Blacks, even electing many, reaching out a hand and saying, “Yes. I want him or her.” over a White man or woman for an elected office. But we haven’t been able to change society when it comes to the vast majority of Blacks. Is it their fault? Some would like you to think so. But, remember the history, the Black Codes in the South, the Segregation, holding Blacks down deliberately, mistaken in their beliefs that the slaves were somehow responsible for the Civil War rather than the victims, the captives, the oppressed? This attitude is the result of an effort by the old plantation owners and those hate filled racists in the south, who abused and lynched me because they could. This was the effort of the worst in society, the KKK and their ilk, who found that small band of outlaws who would ride with them, masked and anonymous, to simply live a life of killers and monsters simply because they could.

Nowhere else and to no one else could bands of men ride up to a home at night, drag a father and husband into the yard, and in front of his children, beat him, whip him, hang him from a tree, and after lynching him, even go so far as to set his body on fire. This isn’t simply a fairy tale or a movie. This actually happened…and imagine if it happened in your neighborhood today…every four days…throughout the south between the late 1800s and the early part of the 20th Century.

So, are there reasons we should make this investment? We, as a society can make it happen. Particularly today, under this President, if we can rally more citizens to the side of those who have a sense of fairness. We need to find among Republicans those individuals who are not beholden to the billionaire class. Since Reagan decided that we no longer needed to go the extra mile for those who we had oppressed for so long, the Right Wing rich have been painting all poor people (but by inference all Black people mostly) as lazy and stupid. These people, like the Koch Brothers, the Bradley family, the Mercers, and of course their principal stooge, Donald Trump, all feel that they own this country because they pay more in total taxes individually than do citizens who only make $50,000 to $100,000 a year. Even though they often pay less than half what average families pay on a percentage basis.

This brings us to the challenge. So long as our country remains deadlocked, we will not find the political power to enact this kind of stimulus for only one segment of the population, even though it will change everything. A greater inclusion of African Americans into the middle class will ease race relations, improve the pool of skilled talent, expand our educational system, create more professionals of all genres including desperately needed staffs among those in medicine. But the rich will fight it, just as they have fought everything but the infrastructure bill. The reason they have not fought that is because Republican governors see it as a way to pay their bills without actually creating any new roads or bridges. And the contractors doing the work are largely made up of Republican campaign donors, or can be turned into donors.

But the Build Back Better legislation will always be re-framed by the billionaire-supported Republicans as a “socialist giveaway” a pork-filled handout to Blacks and Hispanics, when in reality the pork-filled handouts–if any–came in the infrastruture bill. Similarly, any legislation to directly educate African Americans, provide them with the skills to start retail stores, grocery stores, co-ops, and other small businesses in their areas, learn the skills needed to rehabilitate properties and turn them into low-cost housing, how to create small manufacturing businesses and create local service companies–all these things, plus basic educational reform, (including the necessary discipline)–will be fought tooth and nail, using their army of surrogate Right Wing radio hosts to downplay and debunk any progress.

Since the early 1980s, the images and programs that have sought to improve the lives of the poor have been given lip-service by Republicans but then voted down in the Senate. This has been at the direction of Mitch McConnell, the keeper of the funds, the campaign funders who keep the Republican Senate in operation. Trump was not the only minority. In most states, the number of Democratic votes outnumbers the Republicans by enough votes to keep Republicans out.

By using the huge number of Right Wing commentators, by using Fox News and the online programs like the Koch brothers-sponsored OANN news network, now the new Forbes network, the Fox News network on line, NewsMax, and Brietbart News plus other propaganda outlets, the billionaire-sponsored media outlets have created an alternative news world. In that world, the Right Wing billionaires are trying to save you from fictional characters both foreign and domestic who want to take your jobs, your guns, your property and your children. By combining the votes of these gullible, often racist voters with the old traditional Republicans, plus the Right Wing conservative voters beholden to their corporations for jobs, or simply voters who want to run your wife’s sex life for you, or are afraid you’ll take their automatic weapons–they create a slim majority to elect Senators and some Right Wing House members.

The way to overcome this media onslaught is simply to get the truth out in real news media, create more outlets within social media, more groups and more Democratic activists within the Democratic Party. As one Republican said the other day, the Republican Party has become the party of Trump. Which leaves the Democratic Party as the only party delivering the facts, the actual truth, to the American voter. Nonetheless, we must work towards a major improvement in conditions, sponsored and run by and activated regularly by White Americans, within the numerous Black communities throughout the nation. Blacks must identify the needs. Blacks must identify the worst areas, the ones that need the most help. Blacks must raise security forces at first to make sure that criminal elements are forced out by stronger local policing, to protect gains in education and prosperity.

Of course, there won’t be progress at first. We are talking about a mountain that has to be moved, a century-and-a-half of built up prejudices against support for Blacks. The images that have been drilled into the minds of Americans, and images that will be reinforced the first few times that the program fails in a school or a community will not go away on their own. This is a decades-long process, involving billions of dollars. And the only visible outcome will be millions more Black Americans moving into the Middle Class, a more integrated, happier, healthier society, and a United States of America that is proud of itself for finally reaching up to grab those values we have always stood for.