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by brasch

Oh, THAT’S What the Boy Scouts Mean by Being ‘Morally Straight’

8:20 am in Uncategorized by brasch

Boy Scout logoHarry Strausser III owns a successful small business with 25 national champion in several forensics categories, and represented the Boy Scouts of America in national competitions sponsored by the Reader’s Digest. As a graduate student, he coached a college forensics team. He has never been arrested or suspected of any crime.

Strausser is an Eagle Scout. He is also gay. The National Council of the Boy Scouts of America says he doesn’t have the right “core values” to be a Scout leader.

Denny Meyer, who lives in New York City, wasn’t a Scout, but often tagged along with his older brother to Scout meetings. During college, Meyer, the son of Holocaust refugees, enlisted in the Navy in 1968 “to pay my country back for my family’s freedom.” After four years, he had quickly advanced to Petty Officer Second Class (E-5), got a job as a civilian with the Department of the Army, and enlisted in the Army Reserve, rising to the rank of Sergeant First Class (E-7). He later worked in international sales and office administration.

Meyer had to pass rigorous background checks to serve in two branches of the Armed Forces, but he can’t pass the background checks become a Boy Scout leader because he’s gay.

Gregory Bourke is a mainframe computer programmer and analyst in Louisville, Ky. He had been a Scout for almost three years. His 15-year-old son is a Life Scout who has finished most of his requirements to be an Eagle Scout. His 14-year-old daughter is a Girl Scout. He has been a leader in her troop for eight years; he had been an assistant Scoutmaster for five years. Last September, he received a special Legislative Citation from the Kentucky House of representatives honoring him for his community involvement and dedication to Scouting.

Bourke is no longer with the Boy Scouts. His local Council, against strong opposition from his troop and the Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic church, which sponsors both the Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops, ordered him to resign because he’s gay, and threatened to pull the church’s Scouting charter if Bourke didn’t resign. The Girl Scouts, like the 4H Club, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and numerous other organizations, has no discriminatory policies, and Bourke’s church is pleased he continues as Girl Scouts leader

In contrast, the Boy Scouts have a long history of allowing local councils to discriminate against racial, ethnic, and religious minorities. It wasn’t until 1974 that the national organization finally ended racial discrimination. In 1991, with the emergence of a “family values” conservative movement, the Boy Scouts formalized a policy to exclude gays from membership and leadership positions. The existing position is that the BSA believes “homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the requirement in the Scout Oath that a Scout be morally straight and in the Scout Law that a Scout be clean in word and deed, and that homosexuals do not provide a desirable role model for Scouts.” Nine years later, the Supreme Court, by a 5–4 vote largely along political lines, said that the Boy Scouts of America was a private organization and had every right to discriminate.

Several Fortune 500 corporations—including Alcoa, Caterpillar, CVS, Dow Chemical, General Electric, General Mills, Intel, Levi Strauss, 3M, UPS, and Verizon—have suspended funding to the BSA.

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by brasch

The Trayvon Martin Case: A Lesson Still to be Learned

10:15 am in Uncategorized by brasch

 

 

by WALTER BRASCH

For years, my father, a federal employee with a top secret clearance, carried a copy of his birth certificate when he went into Baja California from our home in San Diego. Many times, when he tried to reenter the U.S., he was stopped by the Border Patrol.

My father had thick black hair and naturally dark skin, and the Patrol thought he was a Mexican brazenly trying to sneak back into the country by claiming to be married to the black-haired, blue- eyed, light-skinned woman he claimed was his wife. Once back home, he faced discrimination because neighbors thought he was Mexican; the ones who knew better discriminated because he was a Jew.

When I was 11 years old, we moved about 120 miles north to a suburb of Los Angeles. My parents bought a house in a new tract of about 150 houses, all owned by Whites and a few Hispanics. Three or four years later, a Realtor came by, plastering flyers on all the houses, announcing he had a special real good, one-time only deal. A few wouldn’t sell their houses at any price if it was a Black who was planning to move into the area. Someone in the tract finally took up the offer, and a Black family—he was a mechanical engineer—moved in. It didn’t take long before other White families began putting their houses up for sale. Only this time, they weren’t getting as much as the first family that sold out. Soon, the prices began tumbling as other Blacks and Hispanics moved in.

Eventually, the first Black family moved out. But my parents refused to sell their house. They had no intention of becoming involved with what was now known as “block busting.” A few of our Hispanic and Black neighbors wondered why we stayed; some even said we were crazy. But, until my father died in 1983, he owned that house in a neighborhood that went from almost 100 percent White to almost 100 percent Black, Hispanic, and lower-class White, refusing to be sucked in by racism.

Discrimination occurs throughout our country, whether we want to believe it or not. Just in the past year, thousands of incidents show that America still has a long ways to go.            At a synagogue in Sunbury, Pa., someone painted a swastika. In New York City, unidentified individuals threw several Molotov cocktails against a rabbi’s residence. These weren’t isolated incidents. The Anti-Defamation League says there were 1,239 reported incidents in 2010. (The 2011 number is still being tallied.)

Several American communities and the states of Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, South Carolina, and Utah have enacted oppressive anti-immigration laws. On the surface, it appears they want to rid their areas of illegal immigrants, acting only to protect law-and-order. But, the deeper structure is that they fear Hispanics, more of them legal immigrants or citizens of the U.S. than undocumented workers, will get political, educational, and financial power and would reduce the influence of the ultra-conservative White population.

At the University of California at San Diego, a fraternity of Whites sent out invitations to a “ghetto-themed” party, which it called the “Compton Cookout.” The invitation noted that “ghetto chicks usually have gold teeth, start fights and drama, and wear cheap clothes.” At that same school last year, a Klan hood was placed on a statue of Dr. Seuss.

In Kentucky, two men shouting anti-gay slurs kidnapped and beat a gay man. In Tulsa, Okla., an 18-year-old was beaten unconscious by men shouting slurs.

Several firebombs were thrown at an Islamic cultural center and a Hindu house of worship in New York City. Throughout the country, local government and citizens, in defiance of the First Amendment, are trying to prohibit the building of mosques and cultural centers.

At innumerable local schools, where the teachers had “cultural diversity” classes in college and on-the-job “diversity training,” it’s not unusual to hear a few teachers telling racist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic jokes, not just among themselves in a faculty lounge but also with students. 

White supremacists shout for “White Pride!” and Black militants call for “Black Power!” Each claims they aren’t planning to destroy any other race–although myriad Klan and Skinhead actions prove otherwise–but merely to strengthen their own. Add into the mix, a few who will shout “racism” when no racism occurs and, thus, make it difficult for those with true compassion for justice to separate the truth from the fiction. Peel the rhetoric, and the core is still fear.

And that may be why the death of Trayvon Martin is so important. George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch leader in Sanford, Fla., killed Martin, Feb. 26. Zimmerman acknowledges he killed Martin, but claims it was in self-defense. Under Florida’s reactionary “stand your ground” law, borne from fear rather than logic, people who feel threatened can take whatever action they think necessary, even shooting Black teenagers who are armed only with a pack of Skittles.

There are numerous versions of what happened, all of them advanced by myriad people with social and political agendas rather than a search for justice, no matter what they claim. But, fear is at the core of the rhetoric.  Mistrust and distrust, often fueled by the mass media with their own agendas, may lead some to irrationally believe that entire demographics of people—White, Black, Hispanic, gay, Jew, Muslim—may pose threats to their own safety, leading them to react as if the threats were real rather than imagined.

The reasons no longer matter to Trayvon Martin. The lesson however, should matter to the rest of us.

[Walter Brasch is the recipient of the Martin Luther King Jr. distinguished service award. His latest book is Before the First Snow; a major theme of the book looks at issues of racism and bigotry. The book is available from Greeley & Stone Publishers or amazon, in both hardcover and ebook formats.]